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2017-09-18 08:54

Lance Branquinho

Image: Supplied

'The best and brightest from Munich are working on a bargain battery bakkie specially for Africa,' writes Lance Branquinho as the Technical University of Munich tests its new EV - the aCar prototype.

Ghana - Africa nearly had an electric car. Once. South Africa’s ill-fated Joule project had much promise but it was foolishly mismanaged and never matured into production. 

Can the current trend of electrification apply to African automotive needs? With rugged roads and haphazard power supply, not to mention a lack of sustainable electricity, battery cars might not be best suited to the developing economic needs of Africa. 

But a bakkie, might. With generous funding from the Gates foundation, students of Germany’s most prestigious engineering institution, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), are attempting to develop a true gravel travel battery bakkie for Africa.

Battery bakkie

Image: Supplied

Having produced 13 Nobel laureates, you could not possibly hope for a better technical university to attempt the African battery bakkie than TUM. It’s aCar prototype has survived its initial testing in Ghana and the project’s goals are lofty. 

With aCar TUM mechanical engineering team hopes to build a vehicle which can move people and goods point-to-point in Africa, which ordinarily means traversing some rather challenging road conditions. To this end the cab-forward design bakkie is four-wheel drive, powered by a 20kWh battery pack good for 80km worth of range and a 60km/h top speed. Cognisant of African power grid distribution realities, recharging is geared off a conventional 220v wall socket and 7 hours of plug-in time will yield a full battery. 

Image: Supplied

What do you think of the TUM aCar prototype? Would this work in SA? Email us

Power outputs aren’t startling, at all, a mere 16kW – but that’s sufficient for an 80km range and crucially, it’s capable of carrying 1000kg. The aCar bakkie project has now evolved from the original Ghana test site prototype to something which is edging closer to production. Modularity is an anchor theme with aCar and as such the chassis is easily convertible between a traditional loadbed or multi-seater people mover. 

Image: Supplied

With drive to all four wheels, instantaneous torque delivery and short overhangs, rugged road climbing ability has proven to be excellent, as validated by the Ghanaian test team. Best of all, if you do get into a spot of bother, the battery system can be converted to power an onboard winch with one switch, enabling a self-assisted recovery. 

An authentically German designed and engineered battery bakkie, for Africa’s rural farmers and traders. It a concept nearly too good to be true but TUM has the credibility as an institution, funding and expertise to certainly developed this aCar bakkie to something which could be delivered to market for around for less than R150 000. As we said, a lofty aim indeed. Reminds one of what Toyota could have done if it endured with the Stallion and made it an EV. 

Image: Supplied

Read more on:    south africa  |  electric cars  |  off-road  |  bakkie

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