Clean Technology

Solar-E-Cycle : solar powered light electric vehicles disrupting the automobile industry in Africa

Written by Roger Christen

Solar E-Cycles was created in Kenya in 2015 to develop solar-powered light electric vehicles with grant funding from Energy Environment Partnership (www.EEPAfrica.com). Solar E-Cycles Kenya Ltd has commenced production of some 130 vehicles for a full-scale pilot trial aimed at proving out the product and business model.

Problems worth solving in Africa

  • Some 100 million families live in off-grid rural areas without affordable mobility;
  • 40 billion hours are spent hauling water in sub-Saharan Africa and 71% of that is by women and girls;
  • The latter deprived of the opportunity to attend school;
  • 622 million people are without access to electricity;
  • Half of the population earns less than $2.00 a day;
  • The population will grow by almost 4 bn people by 2099 creating a massive production of greenhouse gas from internal combustion engine vehicles and for power generation. In turn, increasing CO2 emissions with the consequence of global warming.

Existing solutions

  • Solar-powered vehicles exist. Engineering schools compete every year. But these versions remain expensive and not practical. One driver, no baggage.
  • Improving pricing and performance. Pricing of components for solar powered lightweight electric vehicles (PV panel, batteries and e-bike parts) will continue to decline whereas performance will continue to improve;
  • 10 prototypes built to date. We have proven that it is possible to build a practical solar-powered light electric vehicle for less than 1000 USD with a range of 50km per day at 30kph. It has a minimum life cycle of 10 years. It is built from existing off-the-shelve components;
  • Solar Home Systems are widely popular. Light solar electric vehicles with excess electricity in their storage batteries can supply basic power needs for the home or business for off-grid rural populations in developing countries. Entry level needs 250Wh per day v/s a minimum daily generation and storage capacity of the vehicle starting at 1500Wh per day in normal sun conditions provides a reasonable supply of electricity for home or business;
  • Pay-as-you-go business models, used for cell phone service and now in solar home systems (growing at 100% per year to a $12 bn market size in 2030 per IFC/World Bank), have removed the up-front payment barrier in developing countries and, with GPS technology, make leasing of the solar electric vehicle to low earners, a business with manageable risks.

Proposed Technical Solution

  • Our solution is based on three innovations: product, service and financing. It is a totally disruptive alternative to the internal combustion engine (ICE) automobile industry.
  • Off-grid power and mobility. We offer a light electric solar powered 2, 3 or 4 wheels transportation device with a range of 50-100km per day with only power from the sun at speeds from 25 – 45 kph. We are the world’s first mass-produced solar vehicle company.
  • Free power from the sun. Higher reliability and easier maintenance than ICE powered vehicles, and safer. As an electric vehicle, it can also be recharged from the network. Built on an electric mountain bicycle platform, it has pedals for emergencies. 
  • Home solar system. Excess energy stored in batteries that can be used to power the home (at night) or the small business. 1500 to 6000 Wh per day depending on battery configurations. 
  • Affordable. A pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) business model at rates as low as $0,50 a day/5 year lease. Technology in GPS and GSM allows us to control the vehicle remotely in a leasing environment with geo-fencing. Affordable transportation and power at rental rates compatible with revenues of $2 a day. 
  • Killer application. Our Solar-E-Cycle hybrid solar powered mobility and power generation solution provides users with revenue generation opportunities in the sale of power and transportation services that can cover the cost of the vehicle making the leasing of the vehicle a financially viable self-sustaining operation for anyone.

Our business model

Our business model encompasses the open source approach, performance monitoring, PAYGo and rapid scaling to attract impact investors. We put social objectives at the forefront of our business strategy by integrating social goals into our business. Besides clearly targeting social objectives, this strategy can also lead to greater profits and reduced risks. Investors today have a clear desire to earn a good return while achieving social impact.

Open source: vehicle designs available to be copied (and improved) off the internet – small welding shops can build it. Suppliers of components like motors, batteries and PV panels or the electronic power management, data collection and transmission system will find specs for adapting their products to our vehicle. Software for fleet and power management on the vehicle will also be open source continually improved.

PAYGo proposal: for a small deposit (10,000KES = $100), 1/10th the price of a motorcycle in Kenya, the user will be lent a Solar-E-Cycle. He will then pay a monthly rate of some 5,000KES = $50. Through mobile payments (M’Pesa). He owns the vehicle in 3 years. If he does not pay the vehicle can be immobilized remotely. Customers will be selected using Microfinance approaches such as social contracting to minimize defaults.

Analytics: All vehicle data (load, power consumption, speed, location, distance travelled, voltage, temperature, even driver behaviour) is uploaded to generate better knowledge of users over the internet of things.

The IKEA of the automotive industry: Customers will be able to receive a dismantled vehicle in a box, with the tools needed and assemble it themselves with help from videos on the dashboard display, CD and YouTube.

Rapid scaling: We will create business units receiving some 100-200 boxes to start a distribution centre in a 40ft container anywhere in Africa. Some 15,000 business units to cover Africa. 2 people will start this business unit, a commercial and a maintenance agent to start. (Change out maintenance recovers damaged parts for rehabilitation or recycling (e.g. batteries) in a circular economy). Each business unit is monitored via the internet for vehicle availability, collection rates, defaults, profitability. Empowering People through solar powered light electric vehicles offering mobility and electricity in an open-source pay-as-you-go business model

Founder

Roger Christen is an international development consultant with 46 years of professional experience.

He graduated from POLYTECHNIQUE Montreal Canada with an industrial engineering diploma and went on after that to get an MBA from MCGILL University. He is currently in the PhD program in Morocco.

He started his career in the mining and shared health services and then became a Consultant with Price Waterhouse

Management consulting led to INTERIM MANAGEMENT where he ran a large strategic chemical company in Canada from 1980 to 1989. Then he came to Africa with a team of 8 Canadians to transition the railway company in Gabon from construction to commercial phase. He ran the Power Utility in Guinea for 2 years that led to some 30 missions in power sector reform and a long-term association with the World Bank. From State Owned Enterprise reform he moved on to Growth Poles where his team won the WOLRD BANK EXCELLENCE AWARD FOR AFRICA in 2007.

He has lived in Africa on a permanent basis in 5 countries for some 15 years, working in French, English and Arabic areas of Africa.

The idea came to him 30 years ago while visiting a village in northern Cameroun. Half the population of the village had one task – fetch water every day. Women and boys and girls with the impact of not being able to attend school. It took 30 years for prices of PV and e-bike components to drop to a level where a solar-powered light electric vehicle for less than $1000 was feasible. 

Link to online video 

Our killer application 

Our Solar-E-Cycle hybrid solar powered mobility and power generation solution provides users with revenue generation opportunities in the sale of power and transportation services that can cover the cost of the vehicle making the leasing of the vehicle a financially viable self-sustaining operation for anyone.

Factors differentiating and disruptive compared to the existing 

Free power, environmentally friendly. 

Our business model

Pay as you go. We can provide a vehicle for $50 a month that will belong to the lessor after 3 years. We are also offering our solution in an open source concept so anyone in Africa can copy our vehicle and contact component suppliers. Or buy from us directly. Get your vehicle in a box. 

Our competitors

None offer a solar powered mobility and power solution like ours. We are the first mass producer of solar-powered light electric vehicles. 

Website 

www.solar-e-cycles.com

Facebook : 

https://www.facebook.com/Solar-E-Cycles-684745028302529/ 

About the author

Roger Christen

Expert en développement international sur l'Afrique depuis 30 ans. Fondateur de Solar E-Cycles Empowering People.

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