Africa’s first solar-powered bus took its inaugural trip last month, driving around a stadium in Kampala – Uganda’s capital – hoping to attract investors to see the prototype into the production stage. The vision for Kiira Motors, who made the bus, is that by 2039 the company will be able to manufacture all the parts and assemble the vehicle in Uganda and in the process directly employ 7000 people. The 35-seat bus is intended for urban areas rather than inter-city use because of the restrictions on how far it can travel. If it is mass produced, each bus would cost up to R900000 – a competitive price for the size of the bus.

The bus can travel up to 50 miles straight and is powered by two batteries. One is connected to solar panels on the roof, while the other is charged electrically for longer distances and journeys at night. Musasizi says it takes just one hour to fully charge each battery, making the vehicle suitable for “all sorts of duties in the cities”, such as school buses or longer-haul journeys across borders. “Our passion for automobiles will help us develop solar motor technology,” he adds. “I’m hoping that as we go by, we’ll become known as the innovation hub for solar transportation technology in the world.”

Kiira Motors grew out of a project at Uganda’s Makerere University, which is now a shareholder in the company. “The bus is purely electric and our idea is to test the strength of solar energy in enabling people to move,” Paul Musasizi, chief executive officer of Kiira Motors Corporation, told a local newspaper. “Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested,” Musasizi says.

Read more about this project here.