aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa

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German students build an electric car for Africa

aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa-Germany

The aCar from the Technical University of Munich is to be used primarily in rural areas of Africa. The electric car offers special functions for this

Source: Technical University of Munich

Two doctoral students from Munich want to mobilize the rural regions of Africa with a robust all-round vehicle. The aCar has no airbags or assistants, but can fill up with sunlight.

D.The vehicle, the Sascha Koberstaedt and Martin Šoltes at the IAA in Frankfurt imagine is not exactly suitable to fire the imagination of automotive fetishists. Its two electric motors together generate a mere 22 hp, and the top speed is around 60 km / h. The two doctoral students at the Technical University of Munich have an air conditioning system just as without a radio. There are also no airbags, and you won’t even look for doors.

While her fellow students at the Institute for Vehicle Technology design stylish sports cars or transport capsules for the Hyperloop develop (a magnetic tube that Tesla boss Elon Musk wants to revolutionize passenger transport), Koberstaedt and Šoltes are at the other end of the mobility spectrum.

You want to build a car that is specially tailored to the requirements in rural areas of Africa. “ACar” is the name of their rustic all-rounder, a first prototype has already proven itself on the mud slopes of Ghana. “He was in the container for six weeks,” reports Koberstaedt. "We unpacked it and switched it on, and it worked perfectly until the last day of testing."

With their project, the two scientists want to stimulate the economy in underdeveloped regions of the continent and do something for the environment in the process. "Mobility is not only an expression of individual freedom, but also the key to economic advancement," says Koberstaedt and tells of pineapple farmers in Ghana who can’t make ends meet because they don’t bring their harvest to the market or at least until next country road.

aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa-Frankfurt

Variable structure: Students from the Technical University of Munich working on the aCar

Source: Technical University of Munich

Many people leave their rural surroundings because they hope for better living conditions in the city. "With our aCar we want to make a contribution to the solution," says Professor Markus Lienkamp, ​​who heads the chair at the TU. "The aCar will be an affordable car that is off-road and can transport large loads."

The aCar should cost less than 10,000 euros once. However, it is not only intended as a development worker on wheels, but also follows entrepreneurial considerations, explains Šoltes. While the markets in Europe and America are saturated and the established car manufacturers are fighting a tough battle for the emerging countries in Asia or South America, Africa offers great potential for market entrants. “After all, over a billion people live there. Only a fraction of them have access to a car or even have their own car. "

With electricity over the jungle slopes

In fact, in much of the continent, vehicle density is significantly lower than in Europe or North America. While there are more than 530 cars for every 1000 inhabitants in Germany, there are just seven in Ghana.

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The fact that Africa has so far not played a role on the automotive world map should not only be blamed on the low economic power, says Šoltes. “It’s also because no one has yet bothered to develop the right car for the continent. In the long run it cannot work to flood supposedly backward markets with outdated models from Europe or Japan. "

When PhD students started with a blank sheet of paper more than four years ago, they had 20 concepts in mind that went in completely different directions. But after the first study trip with many interviews and surveys, a specific draft for the aCar was in place.

This design has little more in common with European ideas of individual mobility than four wheels. Instead of a car, the Munich-based company designed a puristic flatbed truck with one tonne payload and a variable structure that enables both the transport of people and the installation of a water treatment system or a mobile doctor’s practice.

aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa-Germany

The aCar is suitable for off-road use, can be charged with solar power and has a modular structure. It looks like a golf cart with a loading area

Source: Technical University of Munich

However, because the aCar is to be approved as a light vehicle, it does not need any airbags or complex safety systems. And where other cheap cars like the Indian Tata Nano or the Dacia, which has risen to become a globally successful model Duster on gasoline or diesel drive, the aCar hums with electricity over the jungle slopes.

For Koberstaedt, the fact that the car is electrically powered is less a question of the zeitgeist than a further answer to local needs: “What use is a car if you can’t get any fuel for it?” While petrol first has to be carted across the country in barrels , every owner of an aCar can use the solar panels on the roof to generate their own electricity if necessary.

In regions where workshops are often only recognized by the oil stains on the tamped clay in the courtyard, it doesn’t hurt to have an almost maintenance-free engine with 200 instead of 2500 components – and a construction that can be repaired with two wrenches.

Koberstaedt and Šoltes were particularly surprised by the low demands placed on driving performance in Africa. “The feeling for distances and speeds is very different from ours,” says Koberstaedt.

“Local manufacturing is often the best way to go"

During their study trips and test drives, the two found out that a car like the aCar neither has to be particularly fast nor needs a large radius of action. "In any case, you can rarely drive much faster than walking pace on the bad roads," observed Kober-staedt. "You progress so slowly that you don’t need a three-digit range."

For example, while a BMW i3 drives with an output of 125 kW, the aCar therefore has two motors with only eight kW each, and the 20 kWh batteries are empty after 80 kilometers. Then seven hours at a household socket are enough to recharge the cells. An Opel Ampera-E, Currently the range king among affordable electric cars, it would have to be connected to a conventional socket for more than 24 hours.

The aCar is still in the project stage. But after the first prototype has proven itself so well in Ghana and the second is about to be unveiled, the two Munich-based companies have already taken the first steps towards production. With Evum Motors GmbH, Šoltes and Koberstaedt have founded their own company.

aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa-prototypes

Puristic flatbed truck: a prototype of the aCar has already proven itself during initial trials in the hinterland of Ghana

Source: Technical University of Munich

Now they are soliciting investors for the modest five million euros they need to set up a series production facility, and they are looking for a plot of land on which they can build their factory next year and build the next ten prototypes before they can Want to increase production to 1,000 vehicles as early as 2019. This factory is still to be built in Germany, because technical problems and changes in the design can be better managed as a result. In the medium term, however, the aCar is also to be produced with partners in Africa.

Unlike a conventional car manufacturer, the aCar, which as an electric car is much easier to assemble than a combustion engine, should not roll out of the tens of thousands from a central factory, but rather be manufactured locally in large workshops with an annual capacity of around 1000 vehicles. In this way, more people would participate in the added value, and at the same time the makers could bypass hurdles such as import barriers and trade borders. "With import duties of 100 percent in some cases, local production is often the best way to get cars into the country," says Koberstadt.

Apparently the project does not only seem to satisfy the mobility needs of the rural African population. “We get mail from all over the world, with curious questions and very specific orders,” says Šoltes. Even in Germany he sees a growing need for an electric vehicle that offers little prestige, but is inexpensive and practical. Once production has started, it could well be that the aCar will also get a D-sign.

13 thoughts on “aCar: German students build an electric car for Africa”

  1. Aren’t there two engineers in the whole of Africa who can develop such a simple vehicle and set it up, something that two German students can do single-handedly? That would be an indictment of poverty for Africa. Why do Europeans have to come again first? Or the Afros don’t build something like that because they know it’s no good?

    Reply
  2. The ideas are usually not bad, but would people even want that? As far as I’ve heard, the Tata Nano is also a flop because of the distance to you " right" Car was priced too low. Perhaps Africans would prefer a closed car with air conditioning instead of a rustic golf car. The cars must not look like doing without, even if they may not pass the western crash test and hardly have any safety equipment, Renault has been successful in Southeast Europe with Dacia and in India with a vehicle specially developed for the Indian market. The thing with the solar cell and the electric motor may be nice, but gasoline is also available in the last corner of Africa and the distances are often very long.

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  3. This article also shows the problem of e-cars in relation to our future in general. The few parts make the car even cheaper in production, think this one will come in under $ 8,000. And there are no large production lines required, i.e. smaller units. E-cars with 200-300 instead of 2500 parts are now being built everywhere. Only one country in Africa, for example, produces the base en masse, which then produces the structure in its own region with its own design in different countries at low cost.
    What is shown here as an example for this small car also works with larger models. We no longer have to manufacture e-cars in Germany, much too easy for the expensive location.
    I am still waiting for the German automaker to announce that large railings have been bought in Africa, Asia or Albania / Bulgaria etc. There the cars are screwed together with simple means. The base is only made in one place, the rest is then distributed. Wolfsburg, Stuttgart etc. are orphaned and empty cities. And the money is missing everywhere.

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  4. Nobody has to worry about the German car manufacturers and their offspring, the switch keepers remain the problem.
    Tesla is more of an incentive, but not long-term competition.

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  5. If the coal that was put into Teslas and is still invested in the development of such vehicles for such purposes would be more helpful to mankind and the environment.

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  6. Good idea, I hope this project will be a success!
    If now the EU stopped to squander the surplus production of the food sector cheaply to Africa, then maybe the local producers could finally live from their work again. African farmers could also afford such a vehicle together in the village to transport their products to markets where there is really a demand.

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  7. I keep my fingers crossed for the team.
    With the aspect of raising the standard of living in Africa, the German government may also give some start-up money from the refugee pot.

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  8. That would be twice as good, because the money from this pot is simply earned and thus not taken away from anyone, so it is free.

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