Ivory Coast looks to solar vehicles to replace bush taxis

JACQUEVILLE - Hi-tech, cheap -- and quiet. The Ivorian resort of Jacqueville just outside Abidjan is betting on solar-powered three-wheelers as it looks to replace traditional but noisy and dirty bush taxis.

The mini-cars, 2.7 metres long and two metres high, are covered in solar panels each fitted out with six 12-volt batteries, giving the vehicles a range of 140 kilometres.

Returning from a visit to China, the solar cars' promotor Marc Togbe pitched his plan to mayor Joachim Beugre, who was immediately sold.

"We are used to seeing (typically old and beaten up) bush taxis pollute the atmosphere and the environment. We said to ourselves, if we could only replace them by solar trikes," said Beugre.

"Today, a dozen cars are up and running. We are right in the test phase. More and more people are asking for them," says Beugre, seeing a chance to kill several birds with one solar stone.

Long isolated, his town, nestled between a laguna and the sea, has flourished in terms of real estate and tourism since the 2015 inauguration of a bridge linking Jacqueville to the mainland and cutting transit time to Abidjan to less than an hour.

For the start of the school year in October, Jacqueville plans to bring on stream a 22-seater "solar coach" designed to help deal with "the thorny issue of pupils' transport".

Many schoolchildren typically have to travel tens of kilometres from their home village to urban schools.

So far, the trikes have also provided work for around 20 people including drivers and mechanics.

A big plus is the 100 CFA francs (0.15 euros/$0.18) price of a trip -- half a typical downtown "woro-woro" fare -- helping to attract between 500 and 1,000 people a day, according to the town hall and promoter.