Self-Taught Afghan Engineer Makes Solar-Powered Vehicle

Self-Taught Afghan Engineer Makes Solar-Powered Vehicle


Even in the midst of an arduous war environment, a young Afghan man decided to put his talents to work for a greater cause, dealing with everyday problems in Kabul such as air pollution and traffic jams.

In only 45 days, Mustafa Mohammadi manufactured a solar-powered motorbike that doesn’t pollute the environment and has a pedal system that recharges the battery even on cloudy days. After realizing how much insecurity and conflict has affected Afghans over the past three decades, the self-taught engineer developed this project aiming to improve the quality of life in his country.

[Image Source : Ali M. Latifi ,LA Times]

“I knew I had to do it, to show the world and the Afghan people that we are capable of our own technological advances,” Mohammadi said.

Mohammadi wanted to find a solution to the risks that entire families undertake by traveling in unsafe motorcycles during the harsh winter or the relentless summer in the midst of contaminated dust and rain. According to Mustafa, it took him almost one and a half months and approximately USD $1548 to put together this three-wheeled motorbike using salvaged car and motorcycle parts.

The result of all this work is Photon, a two-person vehicle, powered by 60-volt batteries connected to a solar panel installed on the roof top. The motorbike can go at a top speed of 40 kilometers per hour on fully charged batteries.

The government of Afghanistan is yet to legalize this one-of-a-kind vehicle, so Mahammadi has no documents to put Photon to circulate legally throughout the city. “[Traffic officers] would pull me over to ask for the registration documents, but the city has yet to provide me with one. They don’t know how to classify it. Others would tell me to take it off the road,” he stated.

According to Abdul Ahad Khaliqi, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Kabul, hundreds of Afghans, including those with no academic training have innovative ideas that cannot yet be implement because of the bureaucracy and lack of technical and financial support.

In addition to all these limitations, these “inventors” also face problems living in areas of conflict, like the engineer that built an unmanned aerial vehicle and had legal trouble when his invention was mistaken for a war drone by officers.

To Khaliqi, Mohammadi represents a new generation that wants to end conflict and think about the future and the prosperity of their country, but it still faces challenges. According to Mohammadi himself, if there was no conflict, maybe some companies would be willing to develop his design and mass produce a sustainable vehicle that the populations could afford.