Uganda has moved closer to domestic vehicle manufacturing with the shipping in of a fully built unit and the assembling of a 90-seater bus by Kiira Motors Corporation in Nakasongola, 150 kilometres north of Kampala.
According to officials at Kiira, technicians started building the Kayoola Electric Bus, which came as a semi-knocked down unit, on October 30, and hope to be done by end of December.
The bus’s components were supplied by Kiira Motor’s technology transfer partner, CHTC Motors of China.
It is one of two market validation vehicles, the first of which was built at CHTC’s facilities with the participation of six Ugandan technicians. It is that group that is now leading the assembly efforts in Nakasongola.
The buses, to run exclusively on electric batteries, can travel for 300km on a single charge at 80km/hour.
Three charging stations, which can recharge the electric batteries in under two hours, have completed calibration at Nakasongola and will be transferred to Kampala and Entebbe.
Once technical tests are complete, the buses will deployed for a road test with passengers on the 40km Kampala-Entebbe route.
According to Kiira Motors chief executive Isaac Paul Musasizi, the data collected during the trial runs of the two electric buses in Kampala, will be used to come up with a business model for rolling out locally assembled electric commuter buses to be used in Kampala and other urban centres.
“The reason we built the first vehicle from China was purely for reasons of technology transfer, otherwise we own a big chunk of the intellectual property in this vehicle and its systems integration,” said Richard Madanda, KMC director for product development.
Another two electric buses will be assembled in the coming months but the metal frame and sheets for these will be sourced and cut to shape locally.
A further two Euro 5 buses that have been designed for the long-distance cross-border market will also be built although these will be powered by diesel engines.
Construction of the final assembly plant is going on in Jinja, 80km of Kampala. Mr Musasizi says production will be moved to Jinja in June 2021.
Mr Musasizi said the choice of Luwero Industries—a subsidiary of National Enterprises Corporation, which is the business arm of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces—was informed by access to infrastructure that can supply the 200KW needed for the charging station.
Also, besides the basic tools such as metal presses, the 49 square kilometres of land on which the military base sits “allows extreme testing of all possible road conditions without interfering with public roads.”
According to Allan Muhumuza, the business development manager at KMC, building the third bus using locally available materials is intended to validate the domestic supply chain. Material such as steel and plastic that are used extensively in the body works are available locally.
“All they need are the moulds to press these parts, so we shall use the process of sourcing materials for the third bus to accredit local suppliers,” Mr Muhumuza said.
He sees local entities supplying basic parts for the structure such as the chassis and frame by 2021.