Avoiding the junk heap

7 May

It’s a well known fact that medical equipment donated to hospitals in developing countries often ends up on the junk heap. One study conducted by the Engineering World Health group at Duke University found that up to 98% of donated medical equipment in developing countries is broken within five years.

junk heap

Sometimes the equipment operates at the wrong voltage or requires too much power, and is never used. Often it falls into disrepair due to a lack of spare parts. Other times it’s due to a lack of training and support for local maintenance technicians and operators. And in some cases, the devices don’t meet local cultural norms. 

We’re aware of these challenges and we want to design a solution which is viable, successful and well used. We aim to design a vehicle which is as simple and reliable as possible. We will include spare parts and training as part of what we deliver to St Albert’s Hospital and health clinics. We have ongoing consultation with our stakeholders in Zimbabwe, and we will continue that relationship well after we install the African Solar Taxis.

There will invariably be challenges and difficulties, but by approaching our implementation in staged trials, we hope to evolve our design and our implementation so that African Solar Taxis are successful in Zimbabwe and beyond.

2 Responses to “Avoiding the junk heap”

  1. Joseph Breschi September 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    a thought, re the materials required to build such a vehicle, to find materials commonly used in these regions so that repairing or replacing “body ” panels can be cheap and common place. perhaps to build a frame for the engine/power plant, and then use whatever is available locally to complete the body. the all important seating should be part of the frame. could this be built as a flat pack to be assembled on site?

    • africansolartaxi September 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks Joseph. Our approach is to use lightweight polypropylene boards for a combined chassis / body structure, as opposed to a metal frame with a metal/plastic/fiberglass/whatever body. The main reason is weight: we need an extremely lightweight vehicle to give it decent range and speed with minimised energy generation and storage requirements. We’ll start building our first prototype very soon and we’ll trial vehicles in Zimbabwe next year, so we’ll see how that approach performs. Thanks for your interest.

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