Uganda's Kiira Motors unveils solar-powered bus

Tuesday February 2 2016

Kiira Motors' first solar-powered bus. The firm

Kiira Motors' first solar-powered bus. The firm now hopes to attract partners to help mass produce the bus by 2039. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA   

By BBC and JOSEPH KATO

Uganda's first solar-powered bus has been taken on a test drive and its makers now hope it will move forward the country's automotive industry.

The Kiira Motors' Kayoola prototype electric bus was shown off at Namboole stadium on Sunday in Uganda's capital, Kampala. Kayoola is loosely translated as ‘mass carrier'.

One of its two batteries can be charged by solar panels on the roof while the other is in use. The solar panels yield energy to run the bus on a range of 80km.

The firm now hope to attract partners to help manufacture the bus for the mass market.

Isaac Musasizi, Kiira Motors' chief executive officer, said the bus was built at a cost of Ush500 million (about $144,094).

Assembly

He also hopes that it will generate employment, predicting that by 2018, more than 7,000 people could be directly and indirectly employed in the making of the Kayoola.

But backing from international companies, which make vehicle parts, is essential for the project to take off.

The vision is that by 2039 the company will be able to manufacture all the parts and assemble the vehicle in Uganda.

The 35-seat bus is intended for urban areas because of the restrictions on how far it can travel.

If it is mass produced, each bus would cost up to $58,000 (£40,000), which Mr Musasizi says is a competitive price.

Kiira Motors grew out of a project at Uganda's Makerere University, which is now a shareholder in the company, and it has also benefitted from government funding.

President Museveni is set to officially launch the Kayoola solar bus on February 16 at Kampala Serena Hotel.