Made in Nigeria cars

In the past, when Volkswagen beetle was a common sight in Nigeria, it was a popular catchphrase among Nigerians to say ‘built for Nigerian roads.’ Indeed, the desire to have a made-in-Nigeria car has never been out the mind of an average Nigerian. Yes, it is something of a pride. So when on a recent Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said the government had approved a new automotive policy aimed at transforming Nigeria’s automotive industry, an euphemism for building a Nigerian car, it was received with applause everywhere around the country.
Maku had said the approval was sequel to the proposal by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, seeking the nod for the policy to transform the Nigerian automotive industry and attract investment into the sector.
He added that the transformed automotive industry would realise its potential as a major driver of economic growth and diversification, job creation, local value addition, and technology acquisition.
As if responding to the challenge, some Nigerian engineers have promised to deliver a near 100 per cent environment-friendly, fuel-efficient car before the first Africa/Middle East version of the Shell Eco Marathon scheduled for Doha, Qatar in November 2014. The Nigerian team of engineers made up of students and their lecturers from universities of Lagos, Benin and Ahmadu Bello, have promised to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles.
The quest is under the auspices of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on behalf of Shell Companies in Nigeria (SEPCiN). Indeed, in what would be a debut entry for sub-Saharan Africa at the Shell Eco Marathon, three student teams from three Nigerian universities have begun preparation to compete at the 2014 event in Qatar.
Representatives from each team accompanied by their team managers were at the Shell Eco-Marathon in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, recently on a learning visit to acquire knowledge from participating entrants at the event. The six Nigerian students and their professors/team managers had a full week of activities lined-up.
This included a visit to Shell’s Upstream International Director, Andy Brown, a welcome reception by the Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mrs. Nimota Nihinlola Akanbi, a learning session with the Technical University of Delft (a Shell Eco-Marathon veteran participant) and a walk-through the paddocks and technical inspection process with Norman Koch, the Shell Eco-marathon Technology Manager & Student Liaison.
The students also visited the Shell Technology Centre in Amsterdam (STCA), in company of Internal Relations Manager, Shell Nigeria, Mrs. Sola Abulu, where they learnt about the innovation funnel and how it applies to their task ahead at the Shell Eco-Marathon.
Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient vehicles. With yearly events first in the Americas, then Europe and Asia, the winners are the teams that go the furthest using the least amount of energy. The events spark debate about the future of mobility and inspire young engineers to push the boundaries of fuel efficiency.
A member of the Nigerian team of engineers and a mechanical engineer from ABU, Zaria, Dr. Mohammed Dauda said: “Indeed we can link up the Shell Eco-Marathon to the quest for competitive made in Nigeria car. We went to Rotterdam as observers to the 2013 Shell Eco-Marathon for Europe but we are going to participate in Shell Eco-Marathon for Middle East and Africa holding next year in Doha, Qatar.
“We can link it up, because when we participate next year, remember this event is tailored at producing a highly energy efficient car both prototype and sub-urban concept. So, all the parts that will be used in making this highly energy efficient car will be fed into our Nigeria car project. So in essence, participating in Eco-Marathon will help us make a highly energy efficient and sophisticated car.”
A professor of manufacturing engineering at UNIBEN, Akaehomen O. Akii Ibhadode, added: “We went to observe the Eco Marathon in Rotterdam this year in preparation for our competition that will take place in Qatar in November 2014. Our expectation is that from this Eco Marathon in Rotterdam, we are going to put our acts together in preparation of the Eco Marathon that will take place in Qatar next year.
“What we are looking at is that we are not looking at just competing but far beyond that in coming out with a made in Nigeria car, which will form the basis of Nigerian made car. That is our focus. We are going there to participate, make our mark and beyond that we are hoping that this will be the pioneer effort in getting this dream called the Nigerian car.
“Judging from the work we have done previously and the one we are doing now concerning the World Bank sponsored project on the making of engine parts, developing local skills in making of engine parts, we are hoping that at the end of this process we will be able to put together almost a 100 per cent made-in-Nigeria car.”
Prof. Ike Mowete of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, UNILAG, said: “A lot goes into building a made-in-Nigeria car. There are quite a few opportunities that are open to us if you look at it from various dimensions. Take the electrical system for example, how do you design a battery management system that will significantly reduce the way the car consume fuel or energy? How do you design a breaking system that contributes to the entire vehicles fuel efficiency, which has the aesthetics the wiper, the lighting systems, dash-boards?
“There are quite a few opportunities open to our students. More importantly, let them now go from drawing board to hard ware. We will design and try to implement in hard ware and see that in doing so that each time we are conscious of the larger objective of building a fuel-efficient car. Fortunately for now, we are not looking at the engine, in my own team for example, we are focusing on the electric vehicle. And there are quite a few opportunities for that. I can see now on paper that when we now get going we begin to see many things that will be open.
“Many researchers on campus have shown interest in various forms. Some on Information Technology (IT), how will they use their ITR skills to contribute. We have interviewed them. Some we have finished interviewing and we have made them part of the team based on the interview performance.
“So it will be unfolding gradually. Certainly it will contribute to the eventual made-in-Nigeria car because now we are localising talents, we are building local capacities. I am sure at some points we will have the critical mass necessary for us to begin to move from there.”
External Communications Manager (CX) African Cluster, Shell Nigeria, Phillip Mshelbila, at a reception organised for the Nigerian team of engineers preparing for the Qatar meet said: “It is opportunity to put Nigeria on the map. You will concentrate on your design to build, test and actually race this car next year. I call it Eco Marathon challenge. So we have to conquer this challenge and win. We are looking forward to the team Nigeria coming back with the prize; to build a car that can take you the farthest distance with the least fuel.
“It also gives us the opportunity with a Nigerian automobile. See how far India and Brazil have achieved. We see this as an opportunity as well to rekindle that flame in Nigeria to develop a Nigerian car despite these challenges. Our support is to enable this process to go forward and bring this into the consciousness of Nigerians. Our national pride and also our place in Africa and the world is at stake. It is not good enough to put a car together but it must compete and there is need for creativity and something unique.”
The UNILAG team is led by Mowete of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering and two of his best students: Obinna Stanley Agba, 20 and Abraham J. Imohiosen, 21. The team from UNIBEN include: Ibhadode and his students: Adetunji A. Taj-Liad , 22 and Adekola B. Adeyemi, 21, while the ABU team include Dauda of the Mechanical Engineering Department and his students: Bartholomew Njoku, 23 and Yusuf Sadiq, 21.
Dauda said the optimism for a 100 per cent made-in-Nigeria car started as part of the Centre for Automotive Design and Development (CADD). The ABU don explained: “It started as a project called three wheel project, which was started by one of the military regimes I think Ibrahim Babangida administration. So after the three-wheel project was completed which essentially it was tasked with looking at the possibility or feasibility of making a Nigerian car. So when it completed its work then the military administration went ahead to set up CADD and domiciled it in ABU, which was headed by Prof. Clement Folayan who was then our Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Dean of Engineering ABU, Zaria.”
Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient vehicles. With yearly events first in the Americas, then Europe and Asia, the winners are the teams that go the furthest using the least amount of energy. The events spark debate about the future of mobility and inspire young engineers to push the boundaries of fuel efficiency.
Ibhadode is the 2010 winner of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG)-sponsored Nigeria Prize for Science. He won the award for his work entitled Development of New Methods for Precision Die Design. Ibhadode developed a mathematical model for the design of forging die based on die expansion methods, an optimal procedure for the selection of the most cost-effective die design.
General Manager, Sustainable Development and Community Relations of SEPCiN, Osayande Gabriel Nedo, at a training workshop for the Nigerian team said the target is to design a vehicle that can go the farthest not really the fastest.
Nedo explained: “Very key is the journey towards the participation, the ability to raise funds towards developing this car. The idea is that by the time any team goes through this process they must have acquired some capacity. We are looking forward to the participation of the students under the guidance of their professors. We are hoping that we paint Nigeria in good light.
“We want to create some vehicle that will enable others to join the race that will be engendering collaborative efforts. It is not all about winning this time for us. It is out of perceived lack that creativity is sparked. It is being able to use what you have to create what you don’t have. If we are able to present a car that is so cheap, with clean energy that can go just a mile that will steal the show. Participation is the main thing, followed by teamwork. Wining the competition will be a bonus.”
Ibhadode said the aim of the project is to acquire the capacity, both human and equipment, to empower local auto parts manufacturers to venture into internal combustion engine parts production and complete internal combustion engine manufacture.
He said the World Bank-sponsored project, tagged Step-B, will be equipped with state-of-the-art research and production facilities to aid research and learning by staff and students of higher institutions in Nigeria. “The centre will also engage in the production of all components of diesel and petrol automobile engines,” Ibhadode said.
Nigeria’s automobile industry dates back to 1959 when the United African Company (UAC), established the first assembly plant to assemble Bedford trucks among others. Since then, other motor vehicle and motorcycle assembly plants have been established. Despite this long period, the automotive industry in Nigeria has not made much progress beyond mere assembly. Perhaps, with this Shell’s initiative and the new policy, the Nigerian car will soon emerge.