Solar-Run E-Bikes for the Puna Region of Northern Argentina

The final phase of the SEPS project “Solar Mobility in Andean Highlands of Argentina” has been successfully concluded. Located in the north-western province of Jujuy, the pilot project addressed the mobility needs of the rural population by implementing solar-run e-bikes. Considering the fact that e-bikes were a completely new and unknown mobility option for the Puna inhabitants, the interest expressed by the local people was surprisingly high.

Puna is an extensive region about 3,700 metres above sea level, with a widely spread population of about 30,000. Living standards are considerably lower than the Argentine average. Infrastructure, including public transport and service stations, is generally deficient, resulting in unsatisfactory mobility options. However, the region is rich in resources. It has one of the highest global levels of solar radiation and natural lithium resources. Consequently, electric transport powered by solar energy and lithium batteries could be a future mobility option.

During the project period, the implementing organisation EcoAndina provided 15 electric bikes to three geographical areas: the capital San Salvador, the small town of Humahuaca and three villages in Puna. The e-bike kits, comprising the accelerator, the regulation unit, the electric motor and the battery, were purchased from a provider in Buenos Aires. Local technicians assembled the kit and installed it on ordinary mountain bike frames. After a long trial and error period, they eventually produced three prototypes: for urban, mountain and heavy duty use. The e-bikes can travel 25 to 30 kilometres when fully charged; solar battery recharge is carried out using the imported “Sunload” devices.

The interest in, and acceptance of, this new technology by different target groups has been very high. Feedback confirms that e-bikes meet mobility needs in the Puna region for daily journeys of short to medium distances. This project developed a new and integral Andean Solar Mobility concept, encompassing technical, environmental and social aspects. It has been widely publicised in the Jujuy Province and in other parts of Argentina, as well as in Bolivia.

At present, EcoAndina owns the e-bikes, lending them to users and providing technical advice and maintenance. The current high initial investment cost is a barrier for households in rural areas, although it might be feasible for the middle-class urban population. The long-term objective is broader dissemination and the introduction of e-bike production on a commercial scale in San Salvador and in northwest Argentina. EcoAndina plans to cooperate with the local company LIFOR S.A. to achieve this aim.

Additional photos are available on the WISIONS Facebook page. A summary of the project results is available on our sub-project site.

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