By Henry Mukasa
Makerere University has successfully tested an electronic vehicle, Kiira EV, manufactured by students of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology.
Makerere Vice Chancellor, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba who flagged off the car at the college premises described the technological innovation as a historic moment.
“It goes on to confirm that Makerere is a top institution,” an all smiles Byaramureeba commented. “When we say Makerere is a great university, you say, ‘are you sure?’ The level of development at Makerere will blow you away. If we keep this up, Makerere will be ranked among the top five universities of the world,” he added.
The VC said that ranking of top universities is not based on websites information as perceived by many people but on innovation like Makerere’s colleges are churching out by harnessing synergies.
The car was assembled by a team of eight with Paul Isaac Musasizi, the project manager and technical director of the Vehicle Project Makerere, as the team leader. Others were Richard Madanda (electrical), Fred Matovu (mechanical), Jonathan Kasumba (Fine Artist), Gerald Baguma (programmer/ communications), Nasser Gyegenda (mechanical), Pauline Korukundo (programmer) and Nancy Ssenabulya (programmer/research assistant).
The overall head of the project was Prof. S.S Tickodri Togboa, a renowned professor of electrical engineering and computing, who is also the university's deputy vice-chancellor. “This is the brigade,” Togboa said while introducing the team. “I have groomed human resource that can do what can be done elsewhere,” he later said in an interview.
The project was funded under the Presidential Initiative at the university, through which sh25b was earmarked to the college of engineering to propel technological research over a period of five years. It also received additional support from the Gatsby Garage near the college and Kagimu and Habib Investments.
Shortly after two O’clock Musasizi took to the driver’s seat to embark on the test drive the 1000kg, green two-seater car. The car powered by a 40-amps 64-cells Lithium ion battery snaked out of the college parking yard drove around the university campus, a distance of about four kilometres.
Journalists who gave a chase on foot could not keep up with its pace while those who used their personal cars conceded it was a first runner. “I did perhaps 60kmh,” Musasizi commented afterwards. It’s built to cruise at a speed of 100kmh. The battery can last for a distance of 80km before recharging for 3-4 hours with electric power.
The official explained that choice of the car’s colour, green, was to illustrate the university’s commitment to good environmental practices which include, going green and reducing emissions. The car has zero noise and fumes emissions. “Apart from the stone and iron age, Uganda has been left out. Now we want to have a seat on the electric car bench in the world,” Musasizi remarked.
He said the test drive was intended to find out how the car picks speed or reverse. He revealed that during the drive he found out that the reverse was perfect but in forward drive the car jerks a bit. Musasizi also explained that the steering needs powering, the breaks need a boost.
The car is also missing an internal system censor, air conditioning, a speedometer and system to power the windows and doors.
After resources were disbursed by Government in July 2010, the college commenced preparations for the project.
Engineers were assembled, several architectural designs were drawn and simulation on the computer done and various models checked out. In February this year the manufacturing began.
The prototype cost the college $35,000 (Sh98.3m) to assemble but officials believe the cost can be brought down to $15,000 (sh42.1m) as a commercially competitive price when an autonomous centre for Vehicle and transport research is built.
“I hope I will witness that day when half of Ugandans are driving a car made at Makerere. I hope it will we cost effective. We shall keep improving it. When you look at the benz of 1960 and the one of today, there’s a difference,” Baryamureeba commented.
Togboa said the university is now going to embark on a 30-seater suv to answer the transport problems of the country which include gridlock and jam.