OSVehicle: Here’s what Makerere’s Kiira EV can learn from Tabby, the open source vehicle


It’s almost two years now since a group of Makerere University College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology students hatched the Kiira EV, a genius two-seater vehicle that runs on rechargeable lithium batteries instead of petrol to the world. The project demonstrated to the world, that given enough funding with the right leadership, cutting edge technology can emanate from the dorm rooms and campus workshops of African universities.

In an age of technological marvels, the Kiira EV may not be a ground breaking product globally, although it is locally. Countless hybrid electric cars have already been made by universities and corporations alike around the world.

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But not anything like the Tabby!

The Tabby

The Tabby

TABBY is the first product of the OSVehicle project, a project founded by Francisco Liu and Ampelio Macchi that aims to bring open source vehicles to production, by working with designers, makers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers all over the world. It is a universal chassis that can be assembled in less than 60 minutes, can accommodate 2 to 4 passengers, and is compatible with all types of engines, including electric and hybrid ones.

Italy’s Tabby shares a few similarities with Uganda’s Kiira EV; Both are hybrid electric cars and are equally designed to be eco-friendly. However, the Italian made vehicle does carry with it characteristic that the EV should arguably adapt.

The Tabby is Open source

But the main difference between the Kiira EV and the Tabby is that, it’s an open source car! Unlike the EV, users are invited to contribute design ideas online. Anyone can contribute to the development of the car online by downloading the car’s designs from the project website, modify them to suit their needs. For manufacturers this means they can build different bodies for various geographies. For instance, while designing mud and dust-resistant bodies for the African conditions, they could build snow-adaptable ones for Scandinavian countries.

Acclaimed author, Joseph Pine, who’s widely written about Mass customization — a concept where  Products are adapted to meet a customer’s individual needs, so no two items are the same — argues that treating each customer discretely is the way to create customer-centered organizations;

“Most recognize that there are no truly mass markets any more. But we must go beyond looking at market segments and niches to embracing the truism that every customer is his own market. Every customer deserves to have exactly what he wants at a price he’s willing to pay, and companies must make that happen in a way that makes them money”

Designing open-source, tweakable products that can easily be adapted to customers’ needs is the only way to create products have have a competitive edge against the rest in the “experience-economy”.

The Tabby is low-cost

Cost is inevitably part of the equation in mass producing products meant for the African Market. The Tabby goes for a cool 6,000 Euros while the Kiira EV costs a prohibitive $30,000-35,000 to build according to reliable sources! OSV is also convenient from an business perspective, it doesn’t require large manufacturing plants and can be built in a one room factory, lowering production and assembly costs. This can be a big win for indigenous craftsmen, for instance those in Katwe, a suburb of Kampala city whose businesses contribute a significant boost to the local economy.

In the follow up to the Kiira EV,  Centre for Research in transportation technologies  intends to design and fabricate a 28-seater commuter public transport electric vehicle dubbed KAYOOLA, tailored for Kampala City, the capital of Uganda. But before the team embarks on another ambitious project, it could adapt the openness and cost-friendliness of the Italian Tabby.

Images: Addmaya, OSVehicle