OSVehicle hopes Tabby Evo electric car, which can be built in an hour, will be embraced by aid agencies and universities, among others.
In the chaos that ensues after a natural disaster, getting vehicles to aid workers for transporting refugees and supplies can be impossible as roads are frequently blocked. An alternative, says Yuki Liu, chief operating officer of the car design firm OSVehicle, is to airlift them in sections and construct them on the ground.
The idea is unworkable in the case of a standard car or 4×4 but possibly not for the Tabby Evo, an electric vehicle that can be shipped in parts and put together in an hour.
The Tabby Evo is the latest version of a “platform” car, which provides the bare bones of an electric vehicle – including the frame, suspension, steering systems, brakes, seats and wheels – on which companies, relief agencies and universities among others, can build and tweak their own vehicle by adding doors, interiors and a shell.
The skeleton cars were created by Yuki’s brother, Tin Hang Liu, and OSVehicle wants them to be an easier route into the automotive industry. This would end the need for years of research and development and hundreds of millions of pounds in investment. Along with vehicles for aid agencies, the company is working on projects where fleets are used for car-sharing or as delivery vehicles for packages.
Yuki said: “We started to think about how to change automotives because it is the most complex industrial product that has not changed for [some] time. Our background in automotives made us understand that there was a lot of need for innovation there because everything was still made in the same way.”
Tin and Yuki, who were both born and raised in Italy, followed their father into the motor industry. They soon became interested in the idea of circular economies, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible. In 2008, Tin was working in Silicon Valley when he came in contact with open-source hardware – designs for machines and devices that have been publicly released. He applied the principles to cars, where one vehicle would be able to achieve a number of functions.
The Tabby Evo is the second version of the skeleton car. Available with two or four seats, the bare vehicle is charged from a plug socket and has a range of 75 miles (120km) , depending on the type of body attached to it, said Yuki. The maximum speed is 80mph (130kmh), but this can be capped at a lower number depending again on what it is being used for.
When a company buys fleets of the vehicles – the minimum is 200 – they design the final vehicle and then buy and fit the seats, doors and other components separately. Batches of more than 500 four-seater vehicles cost just under $5,000 (£3,500) each, although this price increases if fewer are ordered, according to the company’s chief finance officer, Alberto Loddo.
He said: “To make a new car model from scratch, you would need five to seven years and $100m to $200m. With our platform, we want to shorten that to one and a half to three years, depending on the complexity of the vehicle, and to $3m to $20m.”
An alternative is to download the designs for free from the OSVehicle website, in line with the open-source principle on which the company was founded. The motoring industry, which was previously the domain of a small number of established firms, has welcomed several new entrants in recent years. Apple has discussed plans for an autonomous vehicle with California’s department of motor vehicles, while Google’s self-driving car has also been developed.
The OSVehicle units consist of parts that can be easily swapped without throwing away other working parts, which expands the vehicle’s lifespan, said Yuki. Its core unit contains the most complex parts of a vehicle, which means it is stable and ready to use, she added. Loddo compares it to the Android operating system for mobile phones, where developers can freely access the software as a base on which to build apps.
He said: “The automotive world and the tech world are merging but the only thing is that the automotive world is very slow and big, and not so fast to adapt to change.”
The aim is to remove barriers for entry to the market for smaller companies, which can build different designs on one core vehicle. The two-seat version is comparable to a Smart car, and the four-seater to a Mini Cooper, Loddo added.
The company makes money by selling the vehicles and also by designing and engineering final products for firms that want to make new vehicles using the platform. So far, 10 projectsare in development, ranging from fleets of hundreds to those with thousands of cars, although the exact details are under wraps. A two-seater car by an Italian IT company using its own information and entertainment system will be launched in June. Yuki says she expects to see the first vehicles on the roads next year.
Several projects are being developed in the Aquitaine region of France, including a car-sharing scheme, a delivery scheme and an agricultural programme, which is supported by the regional council.
Among the more bizarre ideas are vehicles that could navigate the surface of Mars or ones that could fly. More realistic suggestions have come from small islands that would benefit from the easy transportation of the parts, said Yuki.
Hotel chains are looking into whether fleets of electric vehicles could be used to transport tourists around Mediterranean islands. Future plans include developing the vehicles to saloon, 4×4 and mini-van sizes. “We are giving the possibility of new vehicles for a niche market,” Yuki said.
“After the launch of the Kiira EV — an electric car and Kiira EV SMACK — East Africa’s first hybrid vehicle, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) on Sunday did the first test drive of its solar-powered bus at Mandela Stadium in Wakiso.
The bus, code-named ‘Kayoola’, is a 35-passenger bus with power banks, which give it a range of 80km when fully charged. It also has solar panels on its roof, which give it a daily range extension of 12km.
“This is typical for the Ntinda, Bukoto, Kampala Road and Nakawa Ring Road, and it can be done for eight rounds a day,” said Paul Musasizi, the KMC chief executive officer.
Musasizi said the project which started in 2011, was initiated to explore the possibilities of using solar technology to support the mass transportation that Ugandans commonly use.
“We wanted to investigate those opportunities, particularly because Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the Equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested.
“Interestingly, these 13 countries along the Equator do not include the US, China, Germany, UK or South Africa that are the major car manufacturers in the world,” Musasizi noted.
It is against this background that the Kayoola solar bus project was meticulously executed.
The chassis is made of steel, its aisle of sheet metal and it also has pipe elements and square sections. Its seats are also made of steel and covered in cream leather.
Musasizi said 90% of the material was from Roofings Uganda Ltd, except for the synthetic leather, tyres, the steering wheel and software that were imported. All white, the bus has a crested crane emblem at the front.
“The development of the Kayoola Solar Bus represents our commitment to championing the progressive development of local capacity for vehicle technology innovation, a key ingredient for institutionalising a sustainable vehicle manufacturing industry in Uganda,” said Prof. Tickodri Togboa, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Science and Technology, while officiating at the inaugural media expo.
He said the vehicle, now an indispensable element of our daily lives, will provide an alternative locally-sourced, eco-friendly public transport solution.
“A regional standard has been raised in technological environmental sustainability. The Kayoola sets a precedent and inspirational trend for the technological future of urban mobility for the East and Central African region,” said Togboa.
At a glance
The Kiira Motors project is an industrial development intervention supported through the Presidential initiative for Science and Technology Innovations.
The project is aimed at establishing vehicle manufacturing capabilities in Uganda for pickups, SUVs, sedans, light and medium duty trucks and buses. This is expected to transform Uganda into a middle-income economy by 2040 through providing a platform with high intellectual convergence of disciplines.
Its official launch shall take place on February 16 at Kampala Serena Hotel and it will be presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.
Musasizi said the first 305 cars from KMC are expected to be rolled off the assembly line by 2018, if all the necessary infrastructure and human resources are put in place. Fifty thousand more units will be produced by 2039. On May 15 2014, the Kiira EV project received 100 acres of land at the Jinja industrial and business park and its capacity is 60,000 units.Many people took to social media to celebrate the innovation.
Asuman Balaba said it was a good initiative and hoped it would be affordable for Ugandans to buy.
Ronald Kiwalabye said: “This is amazing. You have done Uganda proud.”
Enos Shakoma said much as the bus looks good, he wondered whether it could stand the poor roads in some parts of the country.
On the other hand, Ian Ken was pleased with the neutral colour of the bus.
Four South Africans are among 10 finalists up for the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) award for 2015, including an environmentally-friendly minicab.
The IPA, first launched in 2011, is an initiative of the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) and mobilizes African innovators to invest in African-led solutions to ensure a sustainable, prosperous Africa.
Three winners will be chosen on 13 May, sharing a US$150,000 cash prize (R1.8 million), with the most outstanding innovation receiving US$100,000, and two prizes of US$25,000 for innovation with the highest social impact and best business potential respectively.
The AIF said it received a record 925 applications from 41 countries for its awards, surpassing the previous year’s entry record of 903.
The four South African nominees for IPA 2015 are:
- David Gluckman: Lumkani fire detection.
An off-the-shelf fire detection device and alert service that uses radio frequency (RF) transmission technology suitable for informal dwellings. In the event of a fire, the device triggers an alarm to alert the family.
Within 20 seconds, the device transmits a signal that sets off heat detectors in a 60 meter radius to elicit a community-wide response to the fire. This device prevents fires from ravaging high population density communities and boosting community mobilization efforts.
- Johann Pierre Kok: Scientific engineering educational box: ‘Seebox’.
A scientific engineering educational box that allows children to enjoy a practical and experimental way of learning the sciences and electronics, and measuring almost anything electronic or scientific. ‘Seebox’ also offers short videos explaining what is being measured.
This tool addresses the shortage of electronic and scientific professionals, and affords children the opportunity to learn first-hand the principles of science and electronics by building, measuring and experimenting.
- Lesley Erica Scott: Smartspot TBcheck
Smartspot’s flagship product, TBcheck examines the accuracy of machines used to detect TB diagnosis. They are designed to assess whether these machines are functioning optimally. Unlike other products, TBcheck is easy and safe to use and can be delivered to laboratories safely and economically.
This will make diagnosing TB far easier and might go a long way in curbing the TB epidemic in Africa. Today TB is second only to HIV and AIDS as a leading cause of death in the continent.
- Neil Du Preez: Mellowcabs
This is a suite of technologies that includes recovering the kinetic energy that is typically lost in the braking process, converting it into electricity and storing it.
Other associated innovations include hydrogen fueled Mellowcabs, adaptable, renewable body shells and an app to book cab rides that can be paid for with cash or credit.
Its user-friendly services include tracking the cab’s location, Wi-Fi access and mobile charging during the ride. The minicab service fills the gap for commuters who need organized, safe and affordable micro transport within a three mile radius.
This environmentally-friendly taxi service also eases traffic congestion in cities without causing pollution.
The remaining nominees for IPA 2015 are:
- Adnane Remmal, Morocco: A patented alternative to livestock antibiotics.
- Alex Mwaura Muriu, Kenya: Farm Capital Africa is a well developed risk sharing agri-business funding model that draws in investors for a share of farming profits.
- Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo, Burundi: New type of cement “OSP” that protects waters against carcinogenic lubrication oil spills.
- Kyai Mullei, Kenya: M-changa, also known as E-harambee. A mobile application that empowers individuals and organizations to initiate and manage fundraisers via sms or web devices in an efficient and cost effective way.
- Marc Arthur Zang, Cameroon: The cardio-pad. An affordable tablet that records and processes the patient’s ECG (heart signal) before transferring it to a remote station using mobile phone networks.
- Samuel O. Otukol, Uganda: Water distillation system and process (dsp). This innovation proposes an alternative source of viable drinkable water in areas of water shortage or where only sea water is available.
Source: Business Tech
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