A startup working on a new low-cost solar and human-powered vehicle has received funds from the Energy and Environment Partnership in order to bring the vehicle to Africa and contribute to the continent’s economic development in remote areas.
The vehicle called Solar-E-Cycle functions as an e-bike, but it is assisted by both a battery pack and a solar panel.
Roger Christen, a Quebecer who spent the last 28 years in Africa, saw an opportunity to solve with a single product several important problems that Africans living in remote areas face every day: having to walk long distances to get water and lack of access to electricity.
He told LaPresse that he was mainly inspired by those who have to walk miles every day just to get water, but Christen sees more opportunities for African to have access to a product with both a solar panel and a battery pack:
“You can charge your phone, plug a lamp or a water pump. You can even plug a sewing machine and start a business.”
They are several similar efforts in Africa to make those off-grid systems available. For example, a startup backed by Tesla through SolarCity is already leasing hundred of thousands of small off-grid systems.
But Christen’s Solar-E-Cycle is unique for also combining the concept with an actual vehicle.
The main problem is bringing the cost down enough to make it affordable. In order to achieve that, they have been using used bike frames and made several iterations. They say that the latest Solar-E-Cycles can travel up 50 km (31 miles) per day and it can reach a top speed 50 km/h (31 mph).
Furthermore, they are partnering with economic development efforts in order to finance the manufacturing of the bikes and then rent them at low-cost – $0.50 to $1 per day.
Christen said that they received financing to build 70 units to deploy in Kenya.