When Maduka Smart and his buddy, Olusanya Olukoya, built their first electric powered car inside the University of Lagos, they created a stir. The young Nigerian scientist,inventor and student of the University of Lagos talks about the support and challenges they had when building their electric powered car.Smart shares his dreams with Anthony Nwosu, IT EDGE NEWS.
As a student in the University of Lagos, what prompted you and your partner to build this electric car?
We wanted to design an eco-friendly car and at the same time we wanted an energy efficient car. We looked at the situation in Nigeria, we know fuel (PMS) is getting scarcer daily and we thought about what to do. We also noticed that today, many countries of the world are moving away from fossil energy and reducing their carbon footprints. The environment is being destroyed due to emissions especially from the high usage of fossil fuel. These are the few reasons that prompted us to embark on this venture. We looked at various things such as reduction of our dependence on oil to investing in science and technology; this was how we came about an efficient electric car. This car can be powered even from your home.
How long have you been on this P1 (electric car) project?
The concept came up round February 2014 up to April same year. We had to call our friends and bearing in mind that we didn’t have money, we started by saving up money andstarted constructing the car round the month of May 2014. At a period we stopped constructingthe car due to paucity of funds but around 2015 we completed the car.We exhibited around August 2015 at Julius Berger hall. This is the time line… it took us about year.
How did you source for funding?
We did apply for funds. Even though the university didn’t give us financial support they gave us some technical support, they thought us some of the stuffs we didn’t know as of that time. We learnt on the job. Lagos State assisted us with funding after our first exhibition andwe’re grateful to them.
“We wanted to show the world that we have the capacity of solving our own peculiar problems in Nigeria. We want to show the world that Nigerian youths can actually do this. We are using ourselves as a baseline to reach out.”
What about the Federal Government agencies, any kind of support from them?
We have not written to them but we are in touch with them. We believe that something positive will come out from our interaction with them. We also believe that this government is supporting research and development. We are very sure that we will get their endorsement. Our outlook to life is that of optimism.
Do you think that you can mass produce this or will; you sell the design to car firms?
The initial idea is that we saw a problem in the society; the problem of fuel and emission and we as an engineers have the responsibility to solve this problem. I know that people will doubt the possibility of this – one of our professors was even telling us that we are doing this for our egoistic purposes. This was the type of discouragement we encountered during the manufacturing of this prototype electric vehicle. We wanted to show the world that we have the capacity of solving our own peculiar problems in Nigeria. We want to show the world that Nigerian youths can actually do this. We are using ourselves as a baseline to reach out and this was part of the reasons that we did it. We are looking to partner with car manufacturing firm. We have the P2(commercially viable version) coming up . We are setting target between now and five years’ time. We are building a community where we are registering students that will come up with new technologies every year.
Drawbacks of electric cars are efficiency in battery and also availability of power supply in Nigeria, what is your position on this?
The commercially viable version we are planning to launch (P2) we intend to have charging stations and we will build charging stations and they will be powered with renewable energy such as solar. We are looking at starting from Lagos State. The car can be charged at certain points. Let us take for instance I am travelling from Lagos to my state, Anambra, I will charge the car once and it will take me up to eight hours of driving before it needs to be recharged. The average distance from here (Lagos) to my state Anambra is 6hours drive. Using the technology we are deploying the battery can last 6 – 7 hours when charged once. The time it takes to charge this car will be maximum of 30 minutes in selected station but a bit longer when you charge it from your own house. We are putting in place also inside the car while you are driving; the energy is generated and serves as a back-up.
“Today we have hybrid cars that combine the technology of fossil and electric energy. We have to start looking at the future and if we do not develop capacity in this area we will be doomed. We can’t always be consumers of technology”
Why build car not something else, maybe go into music or other forms of entertainment as it is the rave of the moment?
In University of Lagos, there are a lot of science and technology undergraduates’ students designing things there; we shouldn’t see Nigerian youths as people that are only interested in music and entertainment. I and my colleague (Olusanya Olukoya) have always been fascinated about cars. We in DoveTeam always have something we bring to the team. We look at a problem to solve; I believe that nothing is impossible. I know a lot of people that are into science and technology but those in science and technology are not celebrated here in Nigeria.
Will you relocate to other countries of the world as we have seen in many cases?
I am as patriotic as my president, fine I intend to go outside to further myself but I will definitely come back. Olukoya wants to do Msc in Automotive Design; I am going for Product Design. We are looking at studying and be the masters in our craft. DoveTeam is here to harness the pull of intelligent teams we have in Nigeria. In my University (Lagos) we have brilliant minds but they are not encouraged and they back out infrustration. This is why we have DoveTeam. We have CO2 emission everywhere we must find a way to solve this problem and we believe we have the capacity to do this. We can’t always rely on fossil fuel. I will always be back to my country!
Are you open to government partnership in Nigeria?
We are looking at government partnership; if they support technology a time will come we will develop capacity in technology. A time will come when we will be forced to have a home bred technology, why wait for that time? We have to start from now. In the next 15 years, cars that will be produced will either be partially electric or fully electric. Today we have hybrid cars that combine the technology of fossil and electric energy. We have to start looking at the future and if we do not develop capacity in this area we will be doomed. We can’t always be consumers of technology. One thing that we Nigerians should know is that very soon, we will say bye -bye to fossil fuel powered cars.
What message do you have for Nigerian youths in R&D?
Do not give up. The story of DoveTeam is funny.We have passion to giving to society, at a point our biggest sponsor (Olukoya’s mum) passed on. May God bless her soul. She did not see the P1 come into effect. It was a big blow to us to we did not relent on our efforts. Surround yourself with positive people. If you have any ideas, don’t give up on them.