Uganda’s Kiira Motors made news when they launched a prototype solar powered bus, the kayoola bus, back in February. Unfortunately, Kiira Motors will not be commercializing the prototype solar powered bus after all.
The kayoola bus uses two power banks (batteries) which power an electric motor that is coupled to a 2-speed pneumatic shift transmission. The batteries operate in automatic alternation; meaning that when one is supplying power, the other is being charged by solar panels.
Kiira Motors, a state-owned company, will not be able to commercialize the innovation for at least another decade because of an inability to get funds. The company has said instead that in place of the kayoola bus, they will be producing regular diesel engine pickup trucks.
Kiira CEO Paul Musasizi told Quartz that he is in talks with two established vehicle makers who will partner with them and couple the trucks in a Uganda-based car factory.
It is unfortunate that the compromise has to be made considering both Ugandans and other Africans heartily celebrated the development on social media. It was hailed as the unveiling of “Africa’s first solar bus” and after the unveiling, subsequent months saw the innovation being showcased at the UN Environment Assembly.
The company even got an award for leadership in visionary innovation from the global consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan. Musasizi explained that despite all the buzz, the company hasn’t been able to find the funds it needs to enter this “uncontested market space.” He continued;
“It is not easy at this point, even before you set up a plant, to convince an international investor. There are very few people who want to invest in brick and mortar, unless their business is real estate.
“In this case our business is not real estate so it’s not easy for us to get an investor before we can prove that we can at least get one vehicle off the assembly line.”
The company may now have to borrow to produce diesel-powered vehicles while saving up from the proceeds for its long term ambition of making vehicles that use renewable energy.