The technologies proposed for the African Solar Taxi are not entirely novel, but their combination in the intended application of these technologies certainly is. Electric vehicles are just appearing in western countries, and whilst solar PV panels are becoming very common in developed countries as their cost decreases, they are still rare in remote parts of Africa, despite the abundant African sunshine.
The African Solar Taxi will combine solar charging infrastructure (a solar PV array, an inverter, a large storage battery and battery management electronics) with electric vehicles which are rugged, lightweight and simple.
To verify the design and the application of these technologies, a trial will be conducted in Zimbabwe with a prototype vehicle. Initially it will be charged from mains power, but we are seeking funding for the installation of solar charging stations at St Albert’s Mission Hospital and a health clinic approximately 40 km away from St Albert’s. The vehicle will then be able to collect pregnant women from an area of approximately 3,200 km2, to convey them to health facilities for checkups or to the waiting mothers’ shelter at St Albert’s to await the commencement of labour. We intend to employ local people for the two year trial period, including drivers, a maintenance technician, a vehicle scheduler and monitoring and evaluation staff. If the trial is successful, we hope to trial our solution in the Zambezi Valley, where transport poverty is particularly acute. We plan to make our designs available on an ‘open source’ basis and to support others who can help us to address transport poverty elsewhere in Africa, particularly where transport poverty contributes to acute health and social problems.