Out of Africa: award shortlist for lead battery-backed solar tractor
A solar-powered tractor using advanced lead battery technology has been shortlisted for a global green energy award.
Solar energy is stored in advanced lead batteries to power a micro electric tractor designed for use in rural African communities.
By linking a solar energy microgrid with an electric tractor, the system supports sustainable farming in Malawi, where the project is being piloted.
The initiative brings together expertise from ILA’s global research group, the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI), Loughborough University and UK- & Malawi-based charity Tiyeni, and the support of lead battery manufacturer VARTA, with funding from Innovate UK.
Microgrid solutions for off-grid rural communities have high costs of implementation and maintenance that often cannot be covered by the communities, dissuading infrastructure investments.
Lead batteries inbuilt in the micro electric tractor play a central role in this green energy system, storing solar energy and providing it during land preparation activities.
Dr Carl Telford, member of the Aftrak team and CBI Senior Research and Innovation Manager, said: “This is a very promising application of lead batteries that can bring real positive impact to rural communities. Having the recognition by the Milken Institute and the Motsepe Foundation is an important endorsement of the viability of lead batteries in green energy solutions.”
The project has been shortlisted for the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy – a global competition to reward innovators working to increase access to green, renewable energy in Africa. This year, more than 160 teams from 36 countries presented their visionary ideas to the jury.
Selected as one of the five finalists, the Aftrak team will receive $70,000 in funding to further develop and test the system in a live field demonstration in South Africa in February 2024. Aftrak also remains in the competition for the final prize of $1 million, whose winner will be announced in May 2024.