Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and partners will present their new prototype of an electric four-wheel drive utility vehicle designed for Africa—the aCar— at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt next month. The aCar is designed for passenger and cargo transportation and is also of interest for the European automotive market.
The vehicle is primarily intended for transporting passengers and cargo, with a total load capacity of one ton. The battery 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. A number of various modules have been designed for the cargo bed which can be used on a modular basis—e.g., to set up a mobile physician’s office or a water treatment station.
The two-seat aCar is EU-classified as L7e—a heavy quadricycle. Power output is 2 x 8 kW; voltage level is 48 volts; top speed is 60 km/h (37 mph).
The 20 kWh battery capacity gives the vehicle an electric range of 80 kilometers (50 miles). The battery can be loaded from an ordinary 220 volt household wall socket within 7 hours. Solar modules mounted on the roof of the aCar 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.
Four-wheel drive is a must for the roads of Africa, the majority of which are not paved.
An electric drive is not only greener, but is also the better solution in technical terms, since it is low-maintenance and can apply its full torque directly to accelerating from a stop. Of course we'll have to import high-tech components such as the battery and the electric motors in the beginning.—Martin Šoltés, who shares leadership of the project with Sascha Koberstaedt at the Chair of Automotive Technology
The team produced the first prototype in May 2016 and conducted initial tests in Germany. However, to make sure the aCar also meets all the demands placed on it on location, they shipped the vehicle to Ghana, where they tested the technology and concept under local conditions in July 2017.
The car is characterized by an unembellished, clear and modern design. The aCar has also undergone considerable further technical developments. The team was working among other things on optimizing weight, on electrical systems and software, acoustics and ergonomic seating and visibility.
To make sure the idea of the aCar becomes more than just an idea and actually makes it to series production, Sascha Koberstaedt and Martin Šoltés have founded the company “Evum Motors GmbH”. The first vehicles are to be manufactured in a model factory in Europe.
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 project involves the TUM Chairs of Automotive Technology, Metal Forming and Casting, Industrial Design as well as Strategy and Organization. The Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Rosenheim) and the University of Bayreuth are scientific partners in the project.In addition, industry partners are participating in the project: African Health & Agricultural Foundation; Dräxlmaier Group; Hirschvogel Automotive Group; McKinsey & Company Inc.; Otto SPANNER GmbH; Schnupp GmbH & Co. and Hydraulik KG.
The concept of the vehicle was developed together with scientific partners in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) Nigeria, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Ghana, the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT) Kenya and the St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) Tanzania.