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Solar-Powered Truck Offers Solution To Transit Issues In Ghana

Electric vehicles and energy solutions have been popping up in developing countries, providing affordable transportation for those in rural and isolated areas. However, there’s still a need for trucks and other utility vehicles to carry heavy loads and trek out on tougher terrain. Researchers at the University of Munich have built and tested a prototype in Ghana that has already exceeded expectations.

The vehicle in question is called the aCar, an electric truck that can comfortably fit the driver and additional passenger in the front while hauling up to 2,200 pounds of cargo in the back. On a single charge with the 48-volt, 20 kilowatt-hour battery inside the vehicle, it has a range of up to 50 miles at a rate of 37 miles per hour. Even better? It’s optimized for off-road driving.

Two options are available to charge up the vehicle. First, through a traditional household socket, it can be fully powered in about seven hours. And second, solar panels are mounted on the roof, and according to Phys.org, “optional solar collector sheets can be unrolled to significantly increase the amount of solar energy produced for self-contained battery charging.”

Initial tests were performed in Germany back in May 2016, but it received an on-site run in Ghana back in July for six weeks. Many rural areas in Africa have unpaved roads, making it difficult for the transportation of goods. High temperatures and humidity also impact performance of these vehicles.

Technical University of Munich

These tough conditions also makes for a good testing site. After all, scientists had the residents of a developing country in mind when working on the vehicle for over four years. The aCar not only provides a ride and can help move cargo around in these rural territories, but it can also convert into an energy solution with the included battery.

"The challenge was to develop an appealing, functional and high-quality vehicle, while at the same time maintaining simple production methods and low manufacturing costs,” said Professor Fritz Frenkler, chairman of the Technical University of Munich, to Tree Hugger. “Reducing everything to the essentials resulted in a modern and thus long-lasting design."

Tests in Ghana provided a lot of data for the university and they’ll be analyzing it to make a better product. A second prototype will be released at the International Motor Show between September 12th through the 15th. The ongoing goal for the researchers are to develop the highest-quality vehicle at the lowest manufacturing costs. 

According to Phys.org, other updates include “optimizing weight, [improving] electrical systems and software, acoustics and ergonomic seating and visibility.” They’ve been able to keep the price low at around $11,800 US. Even though it’s ideal for developing countries, it could also be used on rough terrain in other areas. It’ll also be attractive in the European market where they are aggressively trying to meet zero-emission standards.

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