Africa Teaches the West How to Build a Car

Smati turtle 1 african carToday’s cars look like spaceships and are built by robots in futuristic factories. At least, that’s the picture in the developed world.

In Ghana, West Africa, both the cars and the auto industry look rather different. In a neighbourhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take apart discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are suitable for African roads. All this happens manually and in open air.

Artist Melle Smets and researcher Joost van Onna, both from the Netherlands, set up shop in Suame Magazine and built a unique African concept car in collaboration with the local community: the SMATI Turtle 1. Their project calls into question western ways of dealing with technology, waste, employment and automation.

Picture: The SMATI Turtle 1

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Micromachines: Decentralized Urban Services in South-Asia

VelochariotArchitects Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco have compiled an interesting document that focuses on small-scale technology in countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They photographed, and made technical drawings of miniature taxi’s, family run water turbines, domestic rain harvesting systems, pedal powered kitchens, home digesters, and the like.

The architects consider their work to be a toolbox, a starting point for thinking outside the conventional norms and recepies. They argue that decentralized services are more flexible, provide more autonomy, and are more efficient in space, energy and materials.

Antoni and Blasco present, in their own words, an equivalent to Neufert’s “Architect’s data“, the book for architects that records standardized dimensions for centralized systems. “Micromachins” is written in French but the visuals dominate.

“Micromachins”, Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco, 2011 [download the page to get the high resolution PDF-document]. Thanks to Yann Philippe Tastevin. Update: the architects have added a new link with colour pictures and English translation.

Gas Bag Buses in Shawan, China

Gas bag buses in china

This photo shows at least six operating gas bag buses in Shawan (“Sandy Bay”), Shandong, China, in 1965. I have added the picture to the article on gas bag vehicles. Cars and buses powered by uncompressed gas in large bags were used in many European countries in World War One and Two, and remained in use in some regions of China and other Asian countries until the 1990s. They are more than a historic curiosity, however. In a comment on our earlier article, Paul Nash notes:

“On further reflection, I think the best application for this system, and certainly the one with the least government regulations to hinder the process, would be for powering of farm equipment.

  • The gas bag could be installed on a frame on top of the tractor, or on a trailer behind, or a carrier in front or to the side, or some combination of these.
  • Aerodynamics are a non issue, and neither is the height of the bag.
  • There are no road safety rules to be dealt with.
  • The short range is often not an issue, the refueling station is never far away and the diesel engines can still operate on diesel alone if need be.
  • The gas bag system also eliminates the $4000 home compressor station needed to fill car CNG tanks from home.

And, of course, the farmer can produce the fuel himself, from waste material – manure, straw, even wood chips, instead of using the harvested grain for ethanol or biodiesel. A wood gasifier could also do this, but needs a warm up and cool down period – the gas bag can be used instantly and for short duration running – a common situation on farms.”

Read more about Gas Bag Vehicles and Wood Gas Cars (another answer to the limited supply of gasoline in World War One and Two).

Picture credit: Ray-Wu.

Mumbai Rickshaws

“Recognizing the role that auto-rickshaws play in sustainable urban transport and meeting daily commute needs in Mumbai will go a long way in improving conditions for drivers, as well as passengers, and will result in social and environmental benefits for Indian cities, as a whole.”

And why not in the rest of the world? Mumbai Rickshaws. Via Emile Hooge. More low-tech cars.

How to Make an Adult Soapbox Kart

Adult soapbox kart “This guide will teach you the basic aspects you’ll need to consider to make yourself a road-worthy gravity-powered vehicle. Full suspension on gokart wheels, driver restraints, a ridgid frame with roll bar, and balanced drum brakes are features of the example kart I’ve built that weighs in at under 100lb.”

Of course, this thing only works downhill and is useless as a practical means of transport. But could we please get rid of the Indy 500 and the Formula One circus and race these karts instead? Seems like a lot more fun to me. Previously: DIY replicas of 1930s race cars.

Tricycle with Foldable Fairing

The Hase Klimax has won the Eurobike 2010 award. The Klimax is a recumbent trike with a foldable fairing and electric assist. Beats any electric city car in terms of efficiency.

Hase-bikes-klimax-4Hase-bikes-klimax-5

Hase Bikes

Overview of Early Electric Trucks (1907 Catalog)

Electric trucks 13Electric trucks 14

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DIY Replicas of 1930s Race Cars

Replica 1930s race car 3 CycleKarts are small, lightweight, nimble machines made by their drivers for the pursuit of motoring sport. They’re not serious speed-machines or status-generating show cars. They’re purely for the gritty fun and satisfaction of tearing around in a machine you’ve built yourself. Their name originated from the use of bicycle or motorcycle tyres. More.

Related: How to make an adult soapbox kart.

Post-Oil Automobile Drives on Wood

Woodmobile joost conijnJoost Conijn travelled through Europe with a wooden car burning wooden fuel.

Update: “Wood gas vehicles: firewood in the fuel tank“.

Electric Wooden Car

Here it is.