Solar taxis circulate in Ivory Coast in the town of Jacqueville about fifty kilometers from Abidjan. These machines are three wheels of about three meters and can carry four passengers. Solar taxis make little noise so they must signal their manoeuvres with loud beeps.
There are about ten to circulate Jacqueville for six months and it is a trader named Konaté Balla who had the idea to import twenty vehicles during a trip to China. “The choice of Jacqueville is justified by the fact that the vehicles that circulated there were dilapidated and only served the surrounding villages. It was difficult to move from one neighbourhood to another” says Marc Togbé the representative of Mr. Konaté.
Inside the small machines, the space is limited: just two seats of two places that face each other. Guillaume Etanza is a teacher who regularly borrows these three wheels to move around the city and is rather satisfied with solar taxis. “To borrow a taxi, you have to wait for it to be complete before it starts going, but with this type of gear the movement is fast. The prices are affordable and the race costs only 100 f CFA” says Mr. Etanza.
In general, passengers do not think much about how solar taxis work, but behind these three wheels, there is a small power generation unit. Perfect Parai is an engineer of the brand of solar taxis and he was trained in China. He takes care of the production unit installed in the corner of a large course. Under a yard of solar panels, a technical room can capture the energy of the sun and return it overnight to solar taxis that need for a full charge.
Taxis, however, need to be recharged a second time in the day but this time it is not the taxi that is directly connected to the terminal but only the battery is replaced. The vehicles have a range of 120 km and thanks to the solar panel fixed on the roof they can go up to 150 km. This is the distance that Anem Maxelle, a solar taxi driver, has been driving for about six months.
“The maximum speed is 50 km/h but we drive slower around 35 or even 40 km/h because the faster you roll the faster battery is discharged” explains Maxelle.
Eco taxi hires about ten people full-time and about twenty part-time. But this new means of transport does not please everyone. Taxi drivers are not happy with this competition, which they consider unfair. “First they came to break the prices that were practiced” stressed Oussenou, an angry taxi driver. The solar taxi fare costs 100 f CFA while taxis required 200 f CFA.
As a result, tax receipts that could rise up to 15,000 CFA francs were divided by two or even three. “We end up with 7,000, 4,000 or 5,000 after a day’s work,” says the taxi driver.
Crafts to three wheels
A range of 120 km
A maximum speed of 50 km/h
For riding on paved edges
Equipped with headlights with LED
Operate on the energy of the sun (with a charging battery)
Jacqueville is a pilot project and Marc Togbé begins to take stock of the deployment of solar taxis. He noted that the lack of infrastructure can be a hindrance to the circulation of its solar taxis. “It’s all about making sure you do not run on rocky tracks: you have to pave the way so that the machines can optimize their operation”.
There is also the question of light. The solar taxis are equipped with a headlight with LEDs which reduces the lighting zone of the machines in case of driving at night. Never mind, Konaté Balla the owner of the solar taxis is already thinking of other solar devices such as minibuses and transport trucks.
In addition to other types of solar vehicles, Balla Konaté plans to install solar taxis in other Ivorian cities such as Korhogo, Ferkessédougou in the north and even in the political capital, Yamoussoukro.
Source: BBC, SeneNews