Trucks for Africa
German all-electric aCar and British OX aim to provide rural transport
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.
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.