Uganda has gone down in automotive history as the first East African country to create a hybrid motor vehicle. The finalized hybrid prototype, known as the Kiira EV-SMACK, made its debut on November 13,2014 at the Sanakara Hotel and again on November 14, 2014 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Potential investors and car enthusiasts alike attended both events to learn about the automobile’s features and innovative design.

 The Kiira EV-SMACK, incorporates both internal combustion engine propulsion systems with electronic propulsion, meaning the vehicle is able to run on fuel or electric energy. With limited electric charging infrastructure in Uganda, the Kiira Motors team implemented dual action technology that allows the energy from the fuel to run the car and charge it simultaneously. Similar to other hybrids, the idea is to run on battery in urban areas congested with traffic and to switch over to fuel on longer journeys requiring extra speed.

To further maximize efficiency, the breaking system converts heat released by the breaks into energy. The energy is used to charge the battery, creating an operating system that is entirely self-sustainable.

Overall, the main objective of the design is to create a better and more economical use of gas. In addition, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) developed the newest model of the hybrid in response to structural issues that were problematic in the first Kiira EV design.

The five-seater electric hybrid vehicle relies on two rechargeable battery banks, one is used to power the electronics and the other is designated to run the car. In order to offset the weight of the engine at the front, the engine’s battery bank is located at the back of the vehicle.  The car’s structural foundation is intended to support balance and ensure that all four wheels remain firmly on the ground.

Government seed money provided by the Ugandan Presidential Initiative for Science and Technology Innovations Programme has turned drawing board concepts into cutting edge realities. Production of KMC’s innovative automobile is set to occur on a 100-acre estate at Uganda Investment Authority,Jinja Industrial and Business Park. The facility contains state-of-the-art technology for engineering, production, corporate affairs and whole vehicle validation.

However, this starting platform will not be sufficient enough to see the entire project come to fruition. A KMC press release provided to Kenya Engineer by senior researcher, Prof. Paul Isaac Musasizi, revealed the need for outside investors if the Kiira EV-SMACK is to push through mass production.

“The seed funding from the government has enabled the project to take off,” the release states. “Interventions are in place to engage more development partners and investors for the timely realization of the project mission.”    

Mass production is scheduled to begin by 2018 and the estimated market value of the car is KES 2.7 million or $30,000.

Ironically, the launch of the hybrid comes just weeks after Kenya’s announcement of the cheapest new vehicle in the country. The Mobius II, produced by Mobius Motors based in Nairobi, is about one-third the cost of a new subcompact like a Toyota Corolla and about the same price as a 10-year-old Corolla.

For KES 950,000, buyers will receive an eight-seater vehicle powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with 86 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque. The zero-frills, no air conditioning SUV sports a tubular-frame with a top speed of about 120km per hour, a weight of 907g and a ground clearance of 23cm. 

The apparent differences between the two vehicles represent the growing demand for a developed automotive industry in East Africa. Various types of consumers are looking within their countries’ boarders for automobiles that will meet their specific needs and criteria.

“The development of the Uganda Automotive Industry is a timely development intervention and the government is applauded for the early-bird support and vision ownership.”

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