SunCycles: Solar-Powered E-Bikes for Namibia

SunCycles is supplying Namibia with the latest in sustainable transportation - the country's first ever fleet of solar-powered e-bikes.

Author Jasmina Schmidt:

Translation Jasmina Schmidt, 09.10.18

How can people get from A to B the best, fastest and most cost-effective way possible? And ideally not damaging the environment in the process? Particularly in cities, these are crucial questions, especially considering the prediction that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

In Namibia, half of the population already lives in cities. Compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, this is relatively high. For this urban population, transport is a major cost. On average, ten per cent of people’s income is spent on transportation – even more than that for those people with lower incomes. A lack of local transport services increases dependence on cars and makes the use of taxis indispensable, especially in the capital Windhoek, where some 400,000 people live.

More sustainability with solar bikes

The most inexpensive means of transport – the bicycle – is rarely seen in Windhoek. One reason for this is the lack of infrastructure for cyclists, and another is the city’s steep slopes and high temperatures. But now the social startup SunCycles is turning the power of the sun from a challenge into a resource – offering the country’s first-ever solar-powered e-bikes.

The e-bikes help people overcome the city’s hills more easily, with the sun used to generate energy for the wheels. At several solar-powered stations in the city, the bicycles’ batteries can be charged for free. On a full charge it’s possible to cover 30-50 km, depending on the weight of the person travelling, the speed and the amount of pedalling required. The e-bikes are available in different models for different needs. As well as being able to be used on city roads, they’re also used for safaris and by gamekeepers in national parks.

With Namibia aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 89 per cent by 2030, ideas like this are coming at just the right time. A common argument against the electrification of transport is the question of how the electricity is produced. Fossil fuels are still the main source in most countries, which of course also contributes to CO2 emissions. SunCycles solves this dilemma by charging its bikes using only emission-free, solar energy. All that’s missing now are infrastructure measures to enable safe cycling in the city and thus get more people on their bikes.

Is electromobility really the future? Check out our RESET Special on E-Mobility to find out more.

This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an original article which first appeared on RESET’s German-language site.

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