Forced to go green in Gaza
Saturday May 31, 2008 17:30 by Rami Almeghari - Rami Almeghari & IMEMC
Al-Khozendar Electronics in Gaza City has become a recent point of pilgrimage for many Palestinians. The visitors come to observe Gaza's latest invention of necessity: an electric car.
Gazan engineers Wasim al-Khozendar and Fayez Annas recently designed a car that runs entirely on electricity as a solution to the fuel scarcity caused by the nearly a year-long Israeli blockade that has included severe cuts in fuel imports.
Passersby, like 50-year-old Gaza resident Ziyad Barakat, marvel over the engineers' ingenuity: "This is a great invention and we look forward to seeing more samples of such a car so that people can be relieved of the Israeli siege. May God bless the guys who made this car."
The previously fuel-run, French-designed engine of the car has now been completely replaced with an electric engine that runs only on battery power. Al-Khozendar, who co-designed the engine with his colleague Annan, says that they came up with the idea almost one year ago just prior to the start of the crippling siege on Gaza.
"Myself and my colleague decided to start working on transforming the car's engine into an electric one, which is environment friendly, unlike the fuel-run, ordinary cars," al-Khozendar said.
"The electric motor of our car is an AC motor, unlike the DC motor, which is costly and unavailable in the local market. When we started running the car in the Gaza streets, we were surprised by the population's reaction," he added. "In the local market we have electric devices to manufacture 20 to 30 cars, and this is definitely not enough for the high demand, which hit more than 1,000, since we began running the car last week."
The fully electrical-powered car has become a fixture in front of al-Khozendar Electronics store in Gaza City.
"We have replaced all the old parts with electric ones; the new parts are made up of 33 batteries with a capacity of 12 voltages and 17 amps, plus a charger that feeds the motor with a seven-hour long current," Annan explained.
"The seven-hour charge allows you to travel for 180 kilometers, and all you need is to recharge the batteries. Inside the car, we have three parameters to measure the voltage consumed, the speed and the battery."
However, the engineers say that using an electric-run car in Gaza will be unaffordable for most under the tightening economic conditions. If a car owner wishes to transform his or her engine, it will cost around $2,500 US -- impracticable for most where 75 percent of the population is dependent on food aid.
According to the executive director of the federation of local industries, Amr Hammad, the ongoing Israel siege is severely harming Gaza's private industry.
"If this situation persists we will not be able to operate more than 95 percent of the industrial sub-sectors. All raw materials are exported through the Israeli crossings, and unless the blockade is lifted, we wont be able to operate anymore."
Hammad maintained that they have launched many appeals since the siege was enforced in June 2007, but "it seems that the Israelis have turned deaf ears."
The current scarcity of diesel, gasoline and cooking gas has birthed other novel solutions, such as motorists operating their cars using cooking oil.
According to Annan, "Our electric-run car is a message to the entire world that Palestinians have the will to break the siege, any siege of any type!"