Feature: Uganda’s first vehicle powered by locally made combustion engine aims to improve agriculture

Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni earlier this month launched a three-wheeler vehicle with the first locally made combustion engine.

Code-named Bingwa – trike the multi-purpose vehicle was developed by local mechanics organized under Kevoton Motions Engineering Ltd, a company, which brings together mainly self-taught innovators from the country’s informal sector.

While launching the vehicle in the northern district of Kitgum, Museveni said government’s decision to set up skilling centres in various parts of the country had started paying off.

“These knowledge and skilling centres for Uganda have created world class scientists, some of whom are here. Now you can see the fruits of our emphasis on sciences,” the president said as he pointed at the three-wheel vehicle.

“You remember some years ago we guided you to emphasise the teaching of sciences in schools and universities. Now you can see our young people, there is nothing they cannot do, you have seen the car I commissioned here and it was made by our own, here,” the president said in a televised event.

The vehicle was launched as Uganda celebrated its 61st Independence Anniversary under the theme, Sustaining a United and progressive nation: Taking charge of our future as a free nation.

According to Rogers Mubiru, one of the founders and director at Kevoton Motions, they developed the idea of building a local engine in 1998 and since then they have never looked back.

“This vehicle has three functions; transportation, pumping water for irrigation and it generates about 6kw of electricity at the same time,” Mubiru said.

Mubiru said the vehicle will mostly benefit areas in the country with no power supply where water is scarce.

“The Bingua uses a single cylinder engine, it has three wheels and can deliver 6000 litres of water per hour using one litre of diesel. It can generate electricity for home appliances and carry a load of one tonne using one litre for 25km,” Mubiru added.

The 10-member group behind the innovation has no graduate amongst them but kept focused on their dream until they found sponsorship from a local university.

 “Since 1998 our focus was to develop our own power devices. Before that were engaged in other activities such as farming, brick making, driving and many others along with practicing mechanics,” Mubiru added.

“From 2012, Makerere University picked interest in our project and started funding us up to 2015. After launching the first prototype of the combustion engine, the minister of science and technology directed Kiira Motors to take us up,” he said.

Kiira Motors Corporation is a government enterprise established to spearhead value addition in the motor vehicle industry in the east African country. This is done through technology transfer, contract manufacturing and the localization of the supply chain.

Although Kiira Motors have already manufactured solar-powered and electric vehicles, the corporation is putting up a state-of-the-art plant where they intend to produce mostly buses both for commercial and public use in a bid to reduce congestion as well as air pollution.

Mubiru acknowledges support from Kiira Motors but their plan is to run an independent firm.

He said their product is close to perfection. “We have developed two engines so far. The first one was to show us where the errors were, but this one is close to a finished product. We just need to get the resources and start commercial production,” Mubiru added.

Mubiru said 56.4% of the engine components were locally made while more than 80% of the entire product was manufactured in Uganda.

“In east Africa there is no company which has adopted our technology yet. We are the first to develop this technology. People have been trying to make different machines but when you talk about such power devices we are the first,” Mubiru said.

He asserts that Africa needs to borrow a leaf from developed economies if science and technology is to grow to greater heights.

“In developed countries they don’t depend mostly on educated people. Once you choose any innovation, you be focused, concentrate and the end result will be perfect,” he said.

He advised the educated youth to “take away the trench between the educated and the uneducated people so that we develop this country together.”

“It is all about choosing what you can concentrate on and develop it to help grow your country,” he said, adding: “Africa can develop our own products as long as we drop the selfishness and work together for the good of our continent.”

 The 40-year-old who dropped out of school after Form Two said there is need for mindset change.

“Chinese technology is good. The European technology is not very difficult. It is all about changing the mindset so that we create something, which can solve our problems,” he said. 

Allan Muhumuza, the Mobility Bureau Chief at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation which funded the project, said the vehicle is specifically made for a typical agrarian community to boost agriculture productivity.

“The electricity can be used for small enterprises to enable them earn some income,” Muhumuza said.b“We are now ready to commercialise the vehicle and supply the market,” the official added.

According to Muhumuza, the project had inspired many students to pursue science subjects and mathematics. Uganda also manufactures and assembles armoured vehicles under the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

Metu Zhongtong, a Chinese company, is currently making both light and heavy vehicles in one of the country’s industrial areas.

Uganda has also in the recent past been promoting the purchase of locally made products under the theme, Buy Uganda, Build Uganda.

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