Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Genesis of the First Kenyan EV

For the last one month I have been doing some research on the EV's(Electric Vehicles) that are manufactured in the US and Europe to find out their best design criteria and approach. For those of you who missed this, De Uitvinders(The Inventors Foundation – Netherlands) in conjuction with Development Through Media (DTM) and the University of Nairobi among others are collaborationg in the production of a Film, The Inventors – The African Race (previously aka The Inventors come to Africa).

Our task as the University of Nairobi and more specifically as the WAZA Platform in this film is to see the actualization of the Electric Vehicle around which the synopsis of the film is based. Hugo Vrijdag who heads the project had been kind enough to provide sketches of his ideas of this vehicle but has given us the liberty to modify or even create a whole new design. Below is a sample of his design.

I immediately understood his train of thought and what came to mind was the popular three wheeler EV created by Rick G. Doran. The Doran is a front-wheel-drive (FWD) design that uses the entire drivetrain from a 1980-89 Subaru Hatchback.
The electric version uses an off-the-shelf series wound DC motor, deep cycle lead-acid golf cart batteries, and a transistor chopper for smooth speed control. In-town range is about 60 miles. Batteries can be recharged overnight using a conventional 110-volt charger.

A stunning coincidence is that the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering some years ago wanted to begin 'ambitious' project to convert to an Electric Vehicle, a 1985 Subaru-Leone 1800 GLF (donated by a sponsor- pictured).

Although this project never took off, Dr. K. Gachigi, a Lecturer at the Faculty, has seen this as a providential opportunity to jump-start it. As the Patron of the WAZA Platform, he is key to facilitating the projects' co-ordination with The University and also the wondrous facilities of the new FabLab.

As Project Leader, my first task is to do some background research on the budget estimates we will expect. The immediate decision would be whether to convert the existing Subaru as-is. Do we use it's chasis and build a light-weight(Fibre-Glass) body? Or do we build the Doran and use the Subaru drive-train as done by Rick.

I will be posting more information on our progress on this forum. I welcome your questions or advice if you are knowledgeable in this field, or if you have had the experience of building an EV! Stay tuned...

Is the future really here?

On the 10th of March 2009, students of the University of Nairobi held a demonstration across the Central Business District in protest of the murders of Oscar Kamau King’ara and John Paul Oulu (GPO, a student) of the Oscar Foundation that took place right in the campus grounds. These murders are alleged to be linked to the Mungiki Sect and are also alleged to have been committed by a unit of the police force. This among many other extra-judicial killings alleged to have been carried out by this unit motioned the demonstrators to chanting the now clarion call that has been echoed by members of Civil Society, “Ali Must Go!”. Major General Hussein Ali is the Police Commissioner of the Kenya Police.

They took the opportunity to also voice their protest on the several issues that have tainted the 'Grand Coalition's' governance of the state.

Contrary to the history of SONU(Students' Organization of Nairobi University) demonstrations, this one was a relatively peaceful protest save for the few incidents by rogue demonstrators towards the end of the march.

We -and I believe I speak with the majority of the student population- are deeply unsatisfied by the actions of our political leaders under whose authority we placed our beloved country only to be damned by tales of grand corruption, impunity and even murder!