The Sunday Mail
Buses provide an essential service and are indispensable in public transportation. They play a pivotal role in economic development and sustenance.
But they consume thousands and thousands of tonnes fossil fuel, pumping harmful gases into the atmosphere.
To reduce and stop emission of gases, various alternatives have been explored like hybrid-electric buses.
The hybrid electric buses are powered by diesel/hybrid electrical propulsion systems.
This system reduces emissions and conserves fuel.
But the fact here is that there is still combustion, carbon dioxide being emitted.
This has not helped because what is wanted is zero emission.
To guarantee zero emissions, electric buses were introduced, but the electricity it runs on is likely to have been generated by fossil energy so, this no better.
Just recently, the solution was found, a solar-powered bus.
The first bus to run purely on solar energy has hit the town streets, its name is Tindo.
Not “Tindo” as we shorten the name Tendai in our Shona language.
The name was generated from Kaurna an Aboriginal language in Australia that means “sun”.
Tindo looks much like other conventional buses you find on the road but the difference is that the bus is not powered by usual fuels like hydrogen, diesel or petrol but pure solar energy.
It is the first bus in the world to be powered 100 percent by the sun, unlike most of her counterparts that are hybrids or gas-powered, she actually has zero emission.
There is no combustion to generate power at all.
The Adelaide City Council’s electric solar bus is the first of its own kind and is used every day by the people of Adelaide through the Adelaide City Council’s free connector bus service.
It is estimated that the bus has saved the environment over 70 000kg of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
In average traffic conditions, Tindo can travel for about 200km before reconnection to the plug.
For conventional vehicles, we calculate amount of fuel against distance, that is, one litre petrol travel for 5km but with Tindo you calculate the number of minutes on the plug against distance. So one minute of recharging is equivalent to one kilometre of driving.
The regenerative braking system on the bus increases the vehicle’s efficiency by 30 percent. Regenerative brakes are special type of brakes that do not pollute or consume, if compared to conventional ones.
When brakes are applied, conventional ones wear out because the kinetic energy released result in the loss of a lot of energy.
The regenerative system recovers most of the energy so it recharges the batteries.
Tindo is equipped with powerful Swiss-made 220kwh sodium nickel hydride batteries that gives her enough thrust to reach her highest speed of 76km/h.
How does she recharge when there are no panels on her?
The bus connects to the plug when she reaches the station.
The bus stations are equipped with a solar PV system on the roof, in a concept similar to the solar parking lots for cars and bicycles which we discussed last week.
Released in 2007 onto the streets of Australia, it offers free services to 40 passengers (25 of whom are seated).
The batteries are able to power the air conditioning system plus a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
The bus offers free services to the public, energy is for free and so are its services.
Imagine how popular it would be if such services are brought to Zimbabwe?
This bus is a panacea to fuel and transport challenges in Zimbabwe and will leave footprints socially and economically.
First, there are no carbon dioxide emissions so our environment will be safe so for us it is an example of social responsibility.
Second, this technology is very profitable to our local transport operators because there will only be maintenance costs and no fuel costs, there is no way this bus can provide free services to the public as in the case of Australia.
To the commuters there will also be joy because the fares will be constant, conventional bus operators can hike fees at any time because of rise of global fuel prices.
The bus can serve urbanites within a range of 200km, meaning that the bus can go as far as Marondera, Chitungwiza, Norton, Bindura, Shamva and probably Murehwa if we use Harare as the metropolis.
The bus, however, is more appropriate for intra-city connections.
Noise pollution is one of the things that is not taken seriously by Zimbabweans yet it affects our daily health.
Normally drivers rev their kombis to attract travellers or sometimes as preparation for take-off.
Tindo addresses noise pollution as she has no sound because she is electrically powered
Health concerns of Zimbabwean citizens should also be considered.
Diesel/petrol buses release carbon dioxide which brings us health challenges. Nitrogen oxides, for instance, irritate the lungs.
Particulate matter such as soot and dust contribute to respiratory illness and cardiac problems, including arrhythmias and heart attacks. If Tindo comes to Zimbabwe there will be a marginal reduction of these poisonous gases which causes diseases.
However, everything has its pros and cons, and Tindo has her own weaknesses.
Solar technology is still developing and we have not yet reached the apex of it.
Tindo is easily affected by the weather, there is not a whole lot of sun during the cold, merciless winter months.
So sometimes she resorts to conventional electricity to keep her running.
As a nation there is ray of hope in the transport sector hopefully
Tindo will come to Zimbabwe soon.
By the way if anyone is interested in buying Tindo, she comes at a cool price between US$900 000 and $1,2 million!
Takaendesa Denhere is an independent researcher and writer on renewable energy. For feedback contact him on the email [email protected]