Namib­ians look at SUNPOWER for taxis and bi­cy­cles.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VIJOEN

THE cur­rent edi­tion of the Etango re­new­able en­er­gies mag­a­zine re­ports stu­dents from three ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in Wind­hoek have de­vel­oped a “so­lar taxi” that is at­tract­ing a lot of in­ter­est.

The size of a golf cart, the very ba­sic cart has an open roll cage and four plas­tic seats un­der so­lar panels.

Stu­dents from the Namibia Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (Nust), the Wind­hoek Vo­ca­tional Train­ing Col­lege (WVTC) and the Uni­ver­sity of Namibia (Unam) de­vel­oped a pro­to­type so­lar taxi af­ter be­ing in­spired by the Ilanga so­lar car built by stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ).

The stu­dents started work in No­vem­ber 2015 and com­pleted their sun-pow­ered taxi in Jan­uary, us­ing se­cond-hand car parts sup­plied by Spares Cen­tre.

The stu­dents told Etango, the aims of their mul­tidis­ci­plinary re­search project is to de­velop a so­lar ve­hi­cle that would meet Africans’ needs and bud­gets.

While the “so­lar taxi” is in­no­va­tive, the so­lar-pow­ered elec­tric bi­cy­cles that were in­tro­duced to Namibia in 2015 are per­haps more re­al­is­tic al­ter­na­tive mode of transport in a coun­try where 90% of the two mil­lion cit­i­zens do not own a car.


SunCy­cle said, per kilo­me­tre, the costs of a so­lar elec­tric bi­cy­cle is around one­tenth of a seat in a minibus taxi.

SunCy­cle said Namibia’s poor spend half of their in­come on transport; and a third on bat­ter­ies. “The use of nor­mal bikes is not ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause of the hills and the heat. Our so­lar-pow­ered elec­tric bi­cy­cles can give ac­cess to labour and good mar­kets, as well as ac­cess to and ed­u­ca­tion facilities,” it said.

The heavy bat­tery of the SunCy­cle, 25 of which had been sup­plied in Namibia, can also be used to power ba­sic elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances in off-grid ar­eas, an idea that very much ap­peals to Namibia’s min­is­ter of Mines and En­ergy Obeth Kand­joze.

He said at a re­cent sem­i­nar that Namibia is in an un­ten­able situ­tion be­cause its peo­ple rely on im­ports of power for as much as 70% of de­mand dur­ing some parts of the year.

“This level of de­pen­dency can pose se­cu­rity of sup­ply and eco­nomic growth chal­lenges to any coun­try. Ide­ally, we want a di­ver­si­fied gen­er­a­tion mix of tech­nolo­gies that can quickly and ef­fi­ciently ad­dress the coun­try’s en­ergy chal­lenges,” Kand­joze said.


The Mines and En­ergy Depart­ment is en­health gaged in talks with over 90 com­pa­nies to gen­er­ate power us­ing con­cen­trated sun­shine. These com­pa­nies in­clude the col­lec­tors of He­lio­vis; heat stor­age us­ing molten salts and potas­sium ni­trate from Hal­dor Top­soe, BASF and En­er­gyNest; ex­per­tise from Saudi Oger, Engie, the North-West Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Lim­er­ick in Ire­land; glass panels from Rio Glass and Cana­dian So­lar, as well as fi­nance from Bar­clays.


A cheap so­lu­tion to long hot roads for Namibia, a sun-pow­ered bike from SunCy­cle, 25 of which are al­ready pro­vid­ing cheap rides.

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