Bangladesh’s 3-Wheeled Solar Ambulances

Solar AmbulanceImage: BRAC University

They may not look much like the ambulances we have in Australia, but these vehicles could mean the difference between life and death in parts of Bangladesh; plus they are pedal and solar energy powered.

While it has pedals, the creators of the solar ambulance say the three-wheeled vehicle (5 if you count the double back wheels) can run entirely on solar power and is perfect for the nation’s many rural areas without such services. It can also fit down narrow alleyways where conventional ambulances can’t.

The ambulance is apparently as well-equipped as those used in Bangladesh’s cities and will cost a fraction of a conventional vehicle; just USD$1,900 to $2,500 compared to at least $30,000.

Able to accommodate three people, it has a maximum speed of 15-20 km per hour and a range of up to 50 km. Four 100-watt solar panels installed on the rooftop charge a bank of four 12-volt batteries that enable it to operate at night.

Solar ambulance inside view

Image : BRAC Univerity via Thomas Reuters Foundation

“The last layer of the development includes installation of a battery charging station (at a hospital or other site close by) that is completely fuelled by a solar canopy,” says A.K.M. Abdul Malek Azad, the project’s team leader and a professor at BRAC University in Dhaka.

“This step is taken to ensure complete independence of these electrically assisted rickshaws from the national grid.”

There is an Aussie link to these solar ambulances – the idea was inspired by solar racing cars in Australia.

Five prototypes have been tested over the last 12 months and the new ambulances are expected to be on the roads of Bangladesh at the end of this year.

The project is the result of collaboration between BRAC University and local vehicle manufacturer Beevatech. Financing has been sourced from the World Bank via Bangladesh’s Infrastructure Development Company Limited; with seed funding provided by U.S. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Solar is making a huge difference in developing nations in not only providing affordable, clean and reliable electricity, but also improving health outcomes. From the We Care Solar Suitcase to cheap solar stills and Samsung’s Solar Powered Health Care Centre; the sun’s energy is being harnessed to help people live longer and healthier lives.

Story source: the Thomson Reuters Foundation.