Ugandan motor company unveils Africa's first solar bus

Uganda-based Kiira Motors revealed the first solar-powered bus in Africa – the Kayoola prototype bus.

Uganda’s Kiira Motors unveiled a prototype for a solar-powered bus described by its makers as the first of its kind in Africa.

“Uganda is privileged to be among the 13 countries in the whole world that are situated along the equator. We decided to take advantage of this strategic position to improve transport technology,” said Paul Isaac Musasizi, the Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) chief executive officer.

Named Kayoola, the 35-seat bus is powered by two batteries that store solar energy derived from panels installed on the roof to power an electric motor. The bus travels at a maximum speed of 80 kilometres (50 miles) making it suitable for short distances and urban areas rather than long-distance travel.

"The bus is purely electric and our idea is to test the strength of solar energy in enabling people to move. The batteries are fixed in the belly of the body, and a solar panel on the roof to supplement power," said Musasizi.

Three years ago, Kiira Motors grew out of a project at Uganda's Makerere University, which is now a shareholder in the company. The motor company has also benefitted from government funding.

After a successful test drive, Uganda will launch the Kayoola in late February. The motor company exports the parts for the bus but they hope to produce their own parts and generate jobs as the Kayoola moves toward mass production.

Each bus would cost $58 000.

"The electric bus offers a smoother and cleaner ride, experiencing less vibration and noise, unlike the usual internal combustion diesel engines. The city will love this bus once we make it a product," Musasizi added.