Introducing Namibia's first solar powered vehicle

By Kelvin Chiringa
July 2016
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In the words of famed author George Knelle, creativity consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.

Mastering the ability to think afresh, a team of innovators from NUST have sort to join the Harambe bandwagon by creating Namibia’s first locally made Solar Powered Vehicle (SPV), an initiative which they think would reduce unemployment and bring reinforcements to the raging battle against poverty.

According to the innovators, the Namibia Solar Electric Utility Vehicle prototype number 1 (NSEUV) which is currently going through final touches will set the motion for the final polished standardized vehicle.

Perhaps what is fascinating about this project is the fact that according to the engineers, this Solar Powered (Vehicle SPV) combines innovations from the latest technologies to make it fit into a smart and digital world.
Combining an updated creative force, the innovators architected the internal systems of this car such that it harnesses GPS technology for the drivers to deduce the position of their clients in real time as well as a swipe machine for easy electronic transactions.

“This car is designed to pick and drop riders without having to search for them, but going straight to where they are using GPS system,” says Paulus Imene who is studying Electronics and Telecommunications at NUST.
The brains behind this ambitious initiative are working in combination with local software developers to position the final product within a world of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The NSEUV as the manufacturers have labeled it, is meant to be a super light vehicle whose body is seamlessly manufactured out of carbon fibre material.

It is powered by solar panels installed on its roof which contain photovoltaic  cells that convert the sun’s energy directly into electric energy, hence totally doing away with carbon emissions.

 Like the rest of the world, Namibia is caught up in the problems of global warming, solar power is fast coming to the fore as one of the most steadfast renewable sources of energy that can be harnessed to bring out a continuous flow of energy to power heating appliances and also automobiles.

Hence the team behind this SPV are convinced their product is not misplaced, but is moving with the ever changing time in mitigating the problems of today at the same time making life cheap and enjoyable.

“Our car’s use of solar energy rightly means that it is eco-friendly, it is simply powered by the sun and from there its ready to go till you charge it again,” says third year Mechanical Engineering student Justina Ambuga.
Its ignition works in tandem with an electric motor built in the belly of its back, a switch installed on its dash board determines whether the car moves forward or backwards and it comes without a gear lever and no engine.

The car prototype is a four seater that comes with a hand break, accelerator and brake pedals.

“I am working in the direction that will see us coming up with the first local car manufacturing company, the solar car is the future and there is no doubt about that and our vision is to rearrange and disrupt the taxi business by introducing environment vehicles” says Professor Pio Barone Lumaga who is the team’s innovation director.
 With a calculated efficiency of 70% to 90% when juxtaposed in comparison with the conventional engine driven car, at least according to the estimates of its designers, this SPV is estimated to bring the future right in the sands of Namibia.

Latest indications show that harnessing the sun’s energy and directing it towards technology saves a society billions or trillions of dollars hence its significant contribution to the economy is not far- fetched.

As global warming is projected to cost society trillions of dollars if left unabated, the innovative brains behind this project are positive their initiative if supported will enhance government’s drive towards winning the war against poverty and unemployment.
“We are positive that once we get adequate support, our car manufacturing industry will reduce the unemployment rate and alleviate poverty, hence our idea is in line with Harambee,” says Jeremia Nanguwo who is studying Mechanical Engineering.
However, Lecturer of Computing Himeezembi Kahorongo who is also the team’s innovation Godfather and director points out that they are not on a spree to fill their pockets with money, but rather seek empowerment that would enable them to realise the dream of a first local car manufacturer in Namibia.

“We are not asking for handouts, we do not want government to give us money but enable us by giving us the right environment which is also translates to proper space where we can work on our own,” said Kahorongo.

Besides being eco-friendly, this car like any other solar powered car is designed to bring out a number of benefits which inter-alia comprises producing no noise, possessing a longer life span and having low maintenance.

However as the innovators remain positive the SPV will be a game changer in the transport world of Namibia, but it has to be pointed out that they come with negatives which may fail to wholly convince the entire market.

 While solar energy is an unlimited resource that does not have to be paid for the fact remains that it is not always available when it’s needed, hence to drive it to work, the sun must be shining.   

Due to the light material from which they are made, SPVs are built to carry very little weight which can mean only one or two people.

While indeed some SPV’s use no batteries; others use lightweight silver-zinc batteries and indications show that they are expensive and need to be recycled after only a few charging cycles.  

However negative the SPV maybe, the important thing is Namibia is set to experience a potential manifestation of its own locally produced cars which if invested in and given attention to will go a long way to change the face of the economy.