The aCar is a prototype all-wheel drive EV built to meet the tough demands of Africa
Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and partners are to present a new prototype EV to the public at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt this September. The aCar is an “all-rounder” designed for passenger and cargo transportation in the myriad conditions of Africa, but could also be interesting proposition for the European automotive market.
aCar is a one-tonne, four-wheel drive capable EV, intended to transport passengers and cargo. Seating two, its powertrain features two 8kW motors and a 20 kWh battery capacity, it has a range of around 80 km. This will also carry it to a top speed of 60 km/h.
Charging from a standard 220V household socket, the battery can be recharged within 7 hours. Solar modules mounted on the roof of the aCar also gather energy throughout the day. Optional solar collector sheets can be unrolled to significantly increase the amount of solar energy produced for self-contained battery charging.
The battery also offers a variety of other possible applications, either as an energy source or as a drive for high-consumption applications, for example as a winch. The team have also designed a number of modules for the cargo bed turning the vehicle into a mobile physician’s office or a water treatment station, for example.
Prof. Markus Lienkamp, head of the TUM Chair of Automotive Technology explained: “The aCar is an off-road capable vehicle that is affordable for people there and is capable of transporting heavy loads. The modular structure also allows other uses for example for water treatment.” Together with the “Bayern Innovativ” campaign, the TUM launched the project “aCar mobility – Rural mobility in developing countries” in 2013. The objective was to conceive a vehicle that precisely meets the requirements of the rural population in sub-Saharan countries. The project is supported by the Bavarian Research Foundation since 2015.
The scientists produced the first prototype in May 2016 and conducted initial tests in Germany. However, to make sure the aCar met the demands placed on it by the terrain, they shipped the vehicle to Ghana, where they tested the technology and concept under local conditions in July 2017.
It’s unlikely to change the face of EVs in Africa overnight, but certainly is a novel concept. The designers also acknowledge that initially, production would depend on components from outside of the continent (presumably raising prices). “Of course we’ll have to import high-tech components such as the battery and the electric motors in the beginning,” Martin Šoltés. In future, however many of the aCar’s components could be manufactured on location, in order to strengthen local economies.
In order to make the automobile affordable for people on location, the price for the basic vehicle in Africa would have to be kept under 10,000 Euros. “Cast nodes and simple bolted construction enable simple manufacturing processes with very low investment costs,” says Prof. Wolfram Volk, head of the Chair of Metal Forming and Casting.
That may require considerable effort from international backers and local manufacturers. In addition, it may still be unsuitable for areas without a stable enough grid connection to charge a battery for 7 hours. The addition of solar panels helps, but is still unlikely to be enough for any more than the odd, short journey.
Much more work lies ahead in development, but hopefully we can see the aCar design developed into an affordable and scalable offering before too long.
The prototype aCar will be presented at the IAA Stuttgart (Hall 4.1, stand A11).