As the automotive industry at present is being reshaped by concerns over oil supplies, international environmental policies, and fuel costs, there’s been a wide variety of hybrid technologies availed to facilitate the transition to more green and tolerable fuel sources. With the introduction of Solar Taxis, commercial transportation could be a starting point for a major transformational push.
Solar Taxis are eco-friendly vehicles powered by clean energy for urban use. Solar panels are generally used to charge these electric commercial vehicles. Photovoltaic (PV) cells with semiconductors found on the solar panels convert the sun’s energy directly into electrical energy for the electric motor’s use. Such cars can also be charged with electricity from the national grid, ensuring they aren’t overly reliant on solar power. Solar Taxis are accelerating the use and growth of renewable energy in conventional ways.
Relative to regular fossil fuel-powered combustion vehicles, Solar Taxis offer a clean energy solution for environmentally-conscious cities. The energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy on offer makes it the future of transportation. Estimates suggest the solar vehicle market could reach US$689 billion by 2027. Investors are subsequently trying to figure out how to improve the performance and power of these commercial vehicles to secure investments in the automobile industry.
Solar Taxis provide a cheaper means of transport as solar energy is free. Users are, thus, free from constantly rising fuel costs that are consequent to uncertain world oil prices. Solar Taxis come with no additional costs except for battery replacements.
Savings are equally passed on to the environment as pollution is cut off. Unlike fossil fuel-powered vehicles which produce significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants, Solar Taxis make a solid case against noise and air pollution.
With advancements in solar technology, prices of solar panels are gradually falling. Panels have become more readily available and cheaper. Having an average lifespan of twenty to thirty years, these panels are long-lasting compared to ordinary vehicles that rely on fuel. After a full charge, automobiles can travel for 50-140 km before needing the next charge.
Solar Taxis also tend to promote sustainable tourism. In cities where tourists’ only options are loud, smoke-belching, and disorderly-operated buses that clog the roads, causing air and noise pollution, Solar taxis offer an improved means of tourist transport at much more affordable rates. Cheaper rates mean reduced tourist costs, which translates into higher tourist numbers and, consequently, higher revenue from tourism.
As of 2019, there were seven different Solar Taxi vehicle models, all serving their purposes related to either delivery or transportation of passengers. Models include the 5-seater, three electric bikes, a double-power tricycle, and dream cargo. Vehicles are designed to function in local environments, both urban and rural.
The battery capacity of the vehicles ranges from 48v/100AH – 72v/20AH, which can travel for 50-140 km before the next charge. Capacity depends on the vehicle in use; all of the vehicle’s battery capacities are sufficient for all intended purposes. The vehicles’ speeds range from 35 km/h to 55 km/h, making them perfect for urban travels that have speed limits of 50 km/h.
As road conditions are often poor in rural areas, tricycles and double-power ‘Aboboyaa’ would make driving easy and convenient for personal use and as well delivery. Additionally, load capacities range from 200 kg to 500 kg, making them ideal to carry both passengers and goods to local destinations. The manufacturing company is currently providing affordable leasing services for its electric cars – the hatchback, sedan, and the recently introduced SUVs.
On The Other Hand;
High initial costs of these vehicles discourage entry into the market. The high entry point is decided by a conglomerate of costs that involve inverters, batteries, wires, and solar panels among others. The batteries are really expensive, considering they are only built for such cars.
Solar Taxis notably lack enough room to house more panels for higher performance. Solar panels are not cheap, and neither are they weightless. Packing the car’s body with solar panels means that you are adding a lot of weight and cost to the car. When you factor in the weight of the battery, the idea seems less enticing. Solar cars in general have several serious design and technological limitations. Some of these are partly tied to aesthetics. Such cars need to be able to accommodate several solar panels, and there is limited space for that.
Solar Taxis are also heavily dependent on sunlight. The number one reason why solar-powered vehicles can move is that they use energy stored in solar batteries. The batteries are only charged during the day when there is sufficient sunlight. Long periods without sunlight create slight problems.
On a clear day, the earth’s surface receives approximately 1 kW of solar energy per 10 sq ft (1 sq mt). Given that highly-efficient 32 sq ft (4 sq mt) PV panels can generate roughly 8 kWh of energy per day, you would only get around 25 miles (40 km) of range out of a normal complement of panels. Poor weather conditions, driving conditions, improper positioning of the panels, and accumulation of dirt would likely make a solar car struggle to reach this figure.
Additionally, Solar Taxis aren’t 100% eco-friendly. Taking into consideration the manufacturing process, especially the mining of the necessary minerals, it becomes clear that each vehicle comes with its share of carbon footprint.
Notwithstanding, the future of Solar Taxis promises much cheaper entry points with progressive developments in manufacturing. The technology is also being redesigned to ensure the highest performance levels even in unfavorable weather conditions.
Solar Taxi Ghana;
A fallout of the global outcry about climate change and its related problems necessitated the introduction of solar-powered vehicles into the automobile industry. According to the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicator Tool (WRI CAIT), energy emissions increased by 10.2 MtCO2e from 1990 to 2011, with transportation contributing the largest share (40%) of the increase.
In 2016, CO2 emissions for Ghana were at 14,470 kt. while in 1997, CO2 emissions were only at 4,592.8 kt. Our GHG emissions are growing at an average annual rate of 6.87 %, despite national, continental, and world efforts to decrease GHG emissions. With Ghana aiming to reduce GHG emissions by 15% by 2030, the Solar Taxi Ghana project has presented an opportunity for Ghana to contribute to the achievement of the 13th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Solar Taxi Ghana project was launched in Kumasi by the Kumasi Hive, in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. The project aims to alleviate poverty and create employment opportunities for young people while protecting the environment by leveraging energy harnessed from the sun to drive solar-powered vehicles.
The pilot phase of the project was spearheaded by Kumasi Hive several months ago (September 2018 – July 2019). With support from the MasterCard Foundation, Solar Taxi Ghana has taken decisive steps in creating an economic and environmental impact on Ghanaian communities by using cleaner alternative sources of energy for transportation.
Solar Taxi Ghana has introduced a fleet of electric vehicles into the Ghanaian transport industry to help fight climate change issues. These vehicles can be charged using conventional electricity from the national grid, but because of the unreliable nature of our electricity, a solar hub has been designed locally to replace the power provided by the national grid. These Solarhubs can be located in 4 major cities across Ghana.
A study conducted by the German Aerospace Center indicates that a solar generating facility covering just 0.3% of the area comprising North Africa could supply all of the energy required by the European Union. Having 1,800 – 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, Ghana receives a lot of sunshine, making it a viable hub for the project.
Electric vehicles produce no fumes and make no noise, solving air and noise pollution. The fleet of electric vehicles includes mini cars, electric passenger tricycles, cargo tricycles, and motor tricycles. Much recently, SUVs have been added to this growing catalog.
Parts of these vehicles are imported and assembled locally by Kumasi Hive, usually taking a few weeks. Once assembled, the cars, motorcycles, and tricycles are used as taxis or made available for purchase to the general public.
Patrons of the taxi service can order rides with the solar taxi app, which has been developed to make the service convenient. The app allows users to choose which type of vehicle they find convenient. Customers also get to purchase a Solar Hub to serve as personal fuel stations in their homes, providing complete independence from the national grid.
Economically, Solar Taxi Ghana aims to explore avenues that equip women with skills in emerging technologies that stimulate their interest in renewable energy. As a result, SolarTaxi Ghana has initiated the female driver training academy which seeks to extensively train women on how to operate electric vehicles while providing them with insights on road safety regulation, maintenance of electric vehicles, and the need for having a clean and reliable form of transportation.
This platform offers young women unique training experiences and a budding network of like-minded individuals pursuing social change through innovation. It will build the self-confidence and road knowledge of these women, ultimately helping them acquire their driving licenses. SolarTaxi also has an all-female engineering hub that assembles its solar bikes and cars.
The main challenge to the success of the Solar Taxi project has been the high import duty placed on the vehicle parts which has consequently raised the selling prices of the vehicles, thus inhibiting patronage. By the end of 2019, the installed electricity generation capacity available for grid power supply in the country was about 4,990 megawatts (MW).
The peak load, however, was around 2,612 MW. The total dependable grid capacity was 4,580 MW in 2019 and was therefore more than the peak load by 1,968 MW. Notably, Ghana’s electricity generation mix includes hydro, thermal, and a bit of solar.
With all that excess electricity, Ghana should be embracing these vehicles with much more enthusiasm. Hopefully, with the right government interventions, Ghana can become the leader in solar-powered vehicles on the continent.