Trucks for Africa

Ger­man all-elec­tric aCar and Bri­tish OX aim to pro­vide ru­ral trans­port

The Witness - Wheels - - ELECTRIC - AL­WYN VILJOEN

IT is not only Gor­don Mur­ray who has ad­vanced plans to pro­vide Africa with an mod­u­lar, af­ford­able truck.

While Mur­ray’s Ford Tran­sit-based OX uses a diesel en­gine that can take 500 ppm diesel, sci­en­tists at the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Mu­nich (TUM) an­nounced plans for a ro­bust, all-elec­tric medium-sized truck for Africa.

Called the aCar, the part­ners in the project said in a state­ment they have been work­ing on the ve­hi­cle since 2013. The project is sup­ported by the Bavar­ian Re­search Foun­da­tion since 2015.

They will present their new pro­to­type to the public at the In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show (IAA) in Frank­furt from Septem­ber 12 to 15, 2017.

Pro­fes­sor Markus Lienkamp, head of the TUM chair of Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nol­ogy, said the aCar was de­signed for pas­sen­ger and cargo trans­porta­tion and the part­ners hope to sell it to Africa’s farm­ers who live far from ur­ban cen­tres.

While Mur­ray’s de­sign just adds light­ness on top of a wide foot­print to en­able the 4x2 OX to scam­per up 4x4 routes, Lienkamp deems four-wheel drive “a must for the roads of Africa”.

The team also rather am­bi­tiously per­haps de­cided on an elec­tric power train.

“An elec­tric drive is not only greener, but is also the bet­ter so­lu­tion in tech­ni­cal terms, since it is low-main­te­nance and can ap­ply its full torque di­rectly to ac­cel­er­at­ing from a stop,” said Martin Šoltés, who shares lead­er­ship of the project with Sascha Kober­staedt at the chair of Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nol­ogy.

The 20 kWh bat­tery has a range of only 80 kilo­me­tres, and but re­port­edly reloads within seven hours from a nor­mal house­hold socket.

Op­tional so­lar col­lec­tor sheets can be un­rolled to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the amount of so­lar en­ergy pro­duced for self-con­tained bat­tery charg­ing.

More so­lar mod­ules mounted on the roof of the aCar gather en­ergy through­out the day.

The plan is to make as many of the aCar’s com­po­nents as pos­si­ble on lo­ca­tion, in or­der to strengthen lo­cal economies.

In or­der to make the au­to­mo­bile af­ford­able for peo­ple on lo­ca­tion, the price for the ba­sic ve­hi­cle in Africa is to be kept un­der R155 700 (€10 000) on a long-term ba­sis.

“Cast nodes and sim­ple bolted con­struc­tion en­able sim­ple man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses with very low in­vest­ment costs,” says Pro­fes­sor Wol­fram Volk, head of the chair of Metal Form­ing and Cast­ing.

The sci­en­tists pro­duced the first pro­to­type in May 2016 and con­ducted ini­tial tests in Ger­many.

How­ever, to make sure the aCar also meets all the de­mands placed on it on lo­ca­tion, they shipped the ve­hi­cle to Ghana, where they tested the tech­nol­ogy and con­cept un­der lo­cal con­di­tions in July 2017.

The aCar passed all the tests with fly­ing colours.

“It spent six weeks in a con­tainer on its way there, we un­loaded it, switched it on and it func­tioned per­fectly all the way to the last day of test­ing,” says Kober­staedt.

To make sure the aCar be­comes more than just an idea and ac­tu­ally makes it to se­ries pro­duc­tion, Kober­staedt and Šoltés have founded the com­pany Evum Mo­tors.

The first ve­hi­cles are to be man­u­fac­tured in a model fac­tory in Europe.

“We’ll have to mas­ter all the tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dures be­fore the car can be made in Africa.

“Then we can train peo­ple from Africa who can in turn pass on their knowl­edge there,” said Šoltés.

The group do not have a price yet, but Šoltés said com­pared to its com­pe­ti­tion, the purely elec­tric aCar is sig­nif­i­cantly more cost-ef­fi­cient and uses the most modern bat­tery and power train tech­nol­ogy.

There is, how­ever, no other elec­tric truck ded­i­cated for ru­ral mar­kets Africa to com­pete with aCar.

The clos­est is the OX, which is cur­rently rais­ing funds us­ing crowd fund­ing to raise £450 000 to send an #OX­toAfrica.

PHOTO: CHAIR OF IN­DUS­TRIAL DE­SIGN/TOP GEAR

The aCar (left) is an elec­tric four-wheel drive util­ity ve­hi­cle with so­lar sheets de­signed for Africa by Ger­man sci­en­tists. The OX (right) is a diesel 4x2 truck made by a Dur­ban­ite who knows a bit about Africa.

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