Solar ambulance

Earlier this year we were contacted by an organisation in Zimbabwe enquiring about the possible use of solar-powered vehicles for transporting pregnant women from rural villages to health care facilities. Our initial reaction was that off-the-shelf petrol vehicles or golf carts would be more versatile and reliable. But petrol and electricity are too expensive and often unavailable in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. One of the factors that contributes to the high maternal death rate is the difficulty that expecting mothers have in getting from rural villages to health care facilities such as delivery hospitals. Almost half of the births in the Mashonaland Central region are delivered at home without formal medical assistance.

We are currently working to design, develop and demonstrate a system for transporting expecting mothers from rural villages to health care facilities. The system will comprise vehicles that can be used to transport women to and from health care facilities, and a system for scheduling and managing the vehicles to maximise their effectiveness.

Because of the high cost and low availability of fuel or electricity to power vehicles, the vehicles will be powered by human and solar power. Bicycles with trailers are being used in some parts of Africa for patient transport, but speed and range are limited by the endurance of the rider. We will investigate the use of electrically-assisted cargo bikes with trailers, or custom designed low-energy vehicles based on readily-available components, with solar panels for recharging batteries.


The key vehicle requirements are:

  • vehicles will service villages within 30 km of a health care facility, and travel up to 80 km per day

  • vehicles must transport the rider, the patient and an accompanying friend

  • vehicles must be capable of travelling on unsealed roads and tracks at speeds up to 30 km/h.

If you are interested in being involved in this project, contact Andrew:


2 responses to “Solar ambulance

  1. I would love to be involved in the project. However the contact email seems to be invalid. Please advise.

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