Most people do not get the luster of driving. To them the act involves a person slamming against the driver’s seat, revving the engine and just taking off to their destination. There is no beauty in it, no enchantment. It is simply moving from one point to another in a box-like mechanical structure. Where is the allure in that?
To some people, driving is magical. To them, driving is dipping a piece of well cooked ugali in chicken soup served with indigenous vegetables after a long day at the farm. To others, driving is like applying a cold ointment on a burning rash, bliss.
The gaiety of driving surrounds its mechanism. You see once you turn your key in the ignition, this seemingly ordinary activity will lead to the release of the (-) on the battery and connect to the (+). The (+) will in turn generate the flywheel creating a humongous voltage current through the magnet to a compartment known as the CDI which takes care of the sparkplug ignition. Feeling the tingles up your spine yet? Let us move to where the real magic happens.
The fuel pump in the engine is in charge of pushing the fuel from the tank to the injector. This fuel mixes with air in the combusting chamber. These two journey through the inlet valve and when this valve closes, the mixture is ignited by the sparkplugs which initiates a fiery blow that breathes life into your car. The exhaust pipe splutters, your engine revs, the car lurches forward and off you trundle with your arm against the slid down window as your fingers lightly tap the leather coated steering wheel. At this point you cannot help smirking like you are Vin Diesel cruising in a mustang.
Of course there is also the joy of manipulating the clutch pedals and the gear selections on an open summer road with Sauti Sol’s “Extravaganza” playing loudly on your stereo. The wind on your face, the orange streaks searing through the navy sky, the haven feel of your back cradling the driver’s seat, the tranquility in your soul; all this can be described by one word, magic. Thing is, what we release to the environment using these vehicles is anything but magical.
Air pollution has been negatively impacting the environment ever since the industrialization age. Automobiles have also played a big part in contributing to climate change with their exhaust fumes. Due to this, measures have been taken to reduce the number of gasoline and diesel cars on the roads.
Eco-friendly vehicles are less harmful to the environment than automobiles which possess conventional internal combustion engines that use either gasoline or diesel. Major car manufacturers have invested in producing vehicles that are environmental friendly including solar-powered cars.
You might be wondering, how do cars fueled by solar work and are they really feasible?
The mechanism of solar-powered automobiles
Last year, the projected market going rate for solar fueled vehicles was $1 billion. Granted, with the pandemic suffocating various industries, this extrapolation has not been achieved. In spite of this, some vehicle start ups and established car manufacturers are investing in hybrid solar-powered vehicles. This has resulted to some automobile companies capitalizing on these cars by weaving together solar kits that will enable drivers to go for longer distances using solar energy. How then does a solar-powered vehicle function?
Basically, solar cars are electric cars that use solar energy. These vehicles have specialized batteries that contain photovoltaic cells which convert photons in sunlight into electric currents that are used as fuel by the car. These cars have the remarkable ability of storing some of this solar energy which comes in handy at night or when the sun loses the battle of the skies.
Vehicles fueled by solar energy help with both environmental pollution and noise pollution. You know that irritating, obnoxiously loud engine sound that emanates from Subaru engines when they whizz past you? You literally feel yourself keel over as you rush to palm your ears hoping to salvage your ear drums from the irksome sound. Imagine if Subaru opted to go eco friendly? Serenity.
If these vehicles are so good, why aren’t they cruising the streets?
The downside of using solar-powered automobiles
The current commercial rate for a single solar panel is 15-20%. This translates to the need of a number of solar cells on the body of your car. This means that you will have to burrow into your pockets so as to cater for these extra cells which are quite costly. This is not the only curtailing factor. The added solar panels will increase the weight of your car.
Apart from the bulk and the expenses, trivial things like dirt, (unless you come across a sandstorm, then it’s not trivial) poor weather conditions and incorrect positioning of the panels can leave you stranded on the road. This is not an endearing situation considering odious things happen when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. We have all seen “Courage the cowardly dog”. Areas like Limuru which never really have a proper shine are not conducive for solar cars.
All in all, there are still some manufacturers that have met these cons head on and created an environmentally genial automobile.
Last year, Hyundai launched a solar roof charging car that replenishes up to 60% of its battery. Other manufacturers tipped their caps to their cheeks and tore a leaf from Hyundai’s book.
The African tourism industry embracing solar-powered vehicles
One of the most profitable industries in Kenya and Africa at large, is the Tourism sector. Every year, a colossal of tourists flood different sanctuaries across the continent, marveling at nature’s naked beauty.
Last year, in a We Are Africa conference, a Ghanaian entrepreneur (Fred Swaniker) said that, “The tourism industry is in need of a complete rebrand.” This statement was a wake up call for many players in this sector.
Many game reserves across Africa are now employing the use of electrical vehicles for their game drives. This is not really a new input in the industry considering that a decade ago, a South African lithium battery manufacturer (Freedom Won) converted a conventional Jeep Grand Cherokee to run using electric battery power.
This adaptation of electric vehicles certainly redefined the game drive experience as tourists from all over the world got to enjoy a silent engine and the absence of diesel constipated air.
The Opibus from Kenya is a company that has invested in electrical game drive vehicles for a while. These vehicles use solar energy to run. The company refurbishes regular vehicles by removing and recycling their engines and fuel tanks. They then proceed to add charging ports, electric motors and batteries.
Maasai Mara’s Emboo River recently acquired the first and only electrical game drive vehicle in the park. This acquisition is predicted to lure in more tourists thus accruing more profits.
It is said that 9 out of 10 people breathe in polluted air, it is about time we adapt to these solar car wonders.
Say, Tokyo drift or God’s eye? Which “Fast and Furious” sequel had you shifting imaginary gears?