Two weeks ago, the University of Nigeria Nsuka (UNN), Enugu State launched a prototype five-seater electric vehicle to the admiration of students. The school is seeking to partner local manufacturers for the vehicle’s mass production across universities nationwide, INYA AGHA EGWU reports.
Movement on campuses in many unversities is a problem.This is nationwide. The students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) were upbeat when the institution launched a made-in-Nigeria electric campus shuttle a fortnight ago.
To the students, this shows that UNN has engineering prowess over other varsities, especially in Mechatronics Engineering.
The rechargeable vehicle is propelled by litton ion battery instead of a combustible engine.
Some of the students who were part of the production team hailed the feat. They said their involvement in the production of the device would boost their training.
The production was anchored by the Mechatronics Research Group, with Dr. Ozoemena Ani as the coordinator and some students as members.
After the launch, the locomotive device conveyed the Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof Charles Igwe, his predecessor, Prof Benjamin Ozumba and Dr David Oyetunji of the National Automative Design and Development Council (NADDC).
A member of the group and final year student of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Job Victor Chukwuebuka, said he gained practical experience during the construction of the vehicle.
“I did the computer-aided design, worked on the brake system and was involved in the mathematical calculation of the vehicle. I can tell you it was a wonderful experience,” Chukwuebuka said.
On the advantage the vehicle has over others, Chukwuebuka said the electric motor is 60 percent efficient compared to 40 percent efficiency of vehicles that use combustible engines. He added that the electric vehicle mitigates carbon emission and saves more money on the long run.
Another student member of the group, Eze Chukwuemeka George, a final year student of the Department of Electrical Engineering, said the electric shuttle excites students. “I was involved in the production of the prototype. I can tell you that if the government can help us provide at least two charging stations, we can kick-start the shuttle service with what we have produced,”George, who has a passion for power electronics said.
Oliorah Patrick, a final year student in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the development of the electric vehicle was in line with global movement away from fossil to clean energy.
“I am impressed that my university has joined the moving train,” Oliorah said, adding that the launch of the electric vehicle will boost the spirit of innovation among students of the university.
The Pharmacy student said the use of the vehicle for shuttle services would ease campus transportation.
“When introduced, the vehicles will definitely reduce the cost of transportation since it won’t be needing fuel. The only problem I foresee is the possibility of the product not getting government’s approval and sponsorship,” he said.
Abdulahi Abubakar Sadiq, the Students Union(SU) secretary, Nsukka campus, said he was looking forward to the mass production of the vehicle and its deployment for shuttle services.
“Some students were involved in the production of the vehicle. This would boost innovation and creativity in the university,” Sadiq said. He pleaded that the product should not be dumped.
Ugwu Chukwuemeka, a 400-Level undergraduate of English and Literary Studies, said: “UNN has once again set the pace in innovation. Using the electric car for campus shuttle will definitely reduce the cost of transportation and that is exactly what we want. However, I am concerned about the distance it can cover”
Okoye Esther Ihunanya, a 200-Level Nutrition and Dietetics undergraduate also has a different view
“The electric car is a good innovation from the university. However deploying it for campus shuttle services when we are still battling with epileptic power supply is not a good idea. What if it stops you halfway when you are rushing for lectures and there is no power to charge the battery?”
Checks by CAMPUSLIFE revealed that the electric car was the fallout of less than two-month intensive work by the Mechatronics Research group of the university, which was challenged by Igwe to demonstrate its capabilities by working ahead of NADDC’s vision for electric shuttles on campuses.
Ani told CAMPUSLIFE how he developed a keener interest in electric vehicles during his stint as a visiting scholar at the Michigan State University (MSU), United States last year. At MSU, Ani said he worked on solar-powered rechargeable multi-function electric tractors, which could perform both stationary and field operations.
On his return to the country, Ani said he forwarded a proposal to NADDC for the production of six of such tractors for medium scale farmers across the six geo-political zones.
According to him, the proposal yielded a meeting convened by NADDC with some other universities, including UNN, Uthman Danfodio University, Sokoto (UDUS), National Metalogical Institute, University of Lagos as well as the University of Ibadan.
At the meeting, NADDC discussed its plan to explore the production of electric campus shuttles and electronic tractors, requesting participating institutions to submit proposals.
Ani, who is also the Acting Head of the Department of Mechatronics Engineering, recalled how Ozumba, took him to task after the meeting with NADDC by approving N1.6 million and mandated his group to deliver the electric car project in six weeks.
The first two weeks, according to Ani, were dedicated to developing the drawing before the search for the materials, 80 per cent of which was sourced from Onitsha, Nnewi and Nsukka while the others were bought from China.
He said his group spent about N800,000 on materials, excluding cost of labour and transportation.
“We still need grants to perfect the design before sending it to the industry for commercialisation,” Ani said.
Ani, who told CAMPUSLIFE that as a primary school pupil, he had a dream of driving his personally-produced car, said he would prefer an indigenous manufacturing industry to take up the mass production and commercialisation of the vehicle.
“The university is a knowledge hub and we have demonstrated that we are capable of producing electric vehicles. With the help of NADDC, industries can sign a good memorandum of understanding with our university and take it up from there,” Ani added
When CAMPUSLIFE enquired if he was not bothered by National Assembly’s non-disposition to the innovation, Ani responded in the affirmative, adding that Nigeria needed to plan for tomorrow in line with emerging global trends.
“Like the technology of GSM, electric cars will come upon us regardless of how we see them now,” he said
Ani’s response re-echoed VC’s stance who warned during the launch of the car that Nigeria cannot afford to stagnate while the rest of the world moves on.
He expressed the preparedness of UNN to lead the country to the fourth industrial revolution through innovations.
Igwe promised that his administration would improve on the foundation laid by his predecessor to ensure that the university launches more innovative outputs within the span of his five years tenure.
We are willing to partner, says NDDC.
David Oyetunji, who represented the Director of NADDC at the launch, congratulated UNN for setting the pace in the production of electric vehicle in Nigeria. He said the product was in line with the vision of the council which it had demonstrated by inviting proposals from selected universities.
“NNDC will like to partner with the University of Nigeria and work towards the commercialisation of the developed prototype,” he said.