“Our ultimate goal is to build the Tesla of Africa.”
These were the words of Rupani Sanjay, Nigerian automobile company, JET Motor Company’s Director of Sales and Marketing, in an interview with Techpoint Africa in 2020, when the company announced its $9m raise to build Africa’s first all-electric vehicle.
A little more than a year later, in June 2021, the company announced its partnership with Nigerian logistics giant, GIG Logistics (GIGL), to launch the country’s first electric cargo van, JET EV.
Founded in 2018 by Chidi Ajaere, Chairman, GIG Group, and a team of automobile experts, JET Motor Company’s mission is to lead Africa into a new era of mobility.
The company has now launched JET EV, the first locally made, fully electric vehicle to run on the Nigerian road, with zero emissions.
If you attended Techpoint Inspired in 2019, you probably remember Joseph Wemimo, Director of Strategy and Operations at JET, introducing JET Mover, the company's first product.
The JET EV
After about three years of research, testing, and iterative development, the company has finally achieved its primary goal — to produce electric vehicles from the start.
According to Ebuka Uchendu, Technical Lead, JET EV, the vehicle can travel 260-280km on a full charge, although it can technically do 300km. With the EV, he says, the number of engine parts reduces by almost 70%, thereby cutting maintenance costs. Operational costs — issues such as refuelling — also drop significantly.
“If you look at the cost of fueling a vehicle for 250km, you will see that using an EV costs less to maintain. For example, looking at the current billing charges from electric companies, you will see that you can charge the EV to full charge with ₦6,000 while fueling a vehicle now in Nigeria for 250km will cost between ₦10,000 and ₦15,000,” Uchendu says.
The EV has a high capacity lithium-ion phosphate battery rated at 107.6kwh, a traction motor with a larger torque of 950Nm, making it possible for the vehicle to accelerate from 0-100km/h in under 20 seconds.
It also comes with a supercharger that can fully charge a dead 107.6kwh SOC (state of charge) in less than 2 hours.
The African experience
But there are questions regarding the high cost of entry and epileptic power supply.
Ajaere says that as their partnership with GIGL indicates, the initial targets are fleet operators — transport companies like ABC and GIG Mobility, as well as schools and governments.
“Fleet operators tend to lose a lot over a period of time. So even though your initial cost of entry might be high, if you think about it as a fleet operator who has 10 or 20 vehicles, two major costs would be maintaining those vehicles and the cost of petrol.
“But with the EV, you practically reduce that cost by literally 100% because you are not using petroleum and your maintenance cost is almost zero. So in terms of maintenance over a long and short period of time, EVs are better, but the initial cost of entry is higher,” Ajaere concludes.
As to the power supply issue, he says, each fleet operator has alternative sources to choose from, such as solar, wind power, and diesel.
“Say I am a fleet operator, and I own 20 fuel-powered vehicles,” Ajaere adds, “I have to put petrol in those vehicles. But if I have a 100KVA generator, for example, all I have to do is power it and charge my fleet. Even if I am emitting CO2 via my diesel-powered engine, I am only doing that via my diesel engine. I don't have 20 vehicles on the road polluting the road. The point is that you can charge your vehicle through any power source.”
But the company is already building charging stations for its partners.
“With the partners we already have, what we are doing is that as they acquire the fleet, we are actually building these stations for them to fit in with their mobility needs.”
However, the long-term goal is that as JET attracts more partners and funding from VCs, it will build solar or wind-powered stations across the board.
There are several players in the African EV industry. Apart from JET in Nigeria, Siltech builds electric bikes, patrol vehicles, and even utility vehicles for the agricultural sector.
In Kenya, ARC Ride has launched two and three-wheelers which companies like Uber Eats and Kibanda Top Up use for deliveries. In Rwanda, Ampersand has introduced a fleet of electric motorcycle taxis, operating as an Uber of sorts while maintaining ownership of the vehicles.
In Uganda, Kiira Motors, which has built electric buses and cars since 2011, already ply the country’s roads.
Despite these strides, Africa is still grossly underrepresented. Ajaere believes JET Motor Company is excellently positioned to turn this around with its vehicles specifically designed for the continent’s bad roads and humid temperatures.
Nigeria’s automotive industry, much like the fintech space, has had its fair share of interesting policies and Ajaere once again echoes his thoughts on the policy outlook in Africa.
“You can have great ideas, but every great company had funding and good policies that incentivised them to make these vehicles easily accessible.
“If countries like Ghana and Nigeria have favourable policies, over time we should be able to export these vehicles not only within Africa but within the decade or next, move across the shores of Africa,” Ajaere concludes.
What does the future hold?
Two words: African dominance. And the company is looking for funding from VCs and angel investors with a similar mindset and interest in the renewable energy space.
Away from that, while JET Motor Company is currently focused on the mass transportation space, it plans to build passenger lines.
There are also plans to innovate in the battery swapping technology space.
“Our plan for expansion is to rapidly get the right funding and literally plant charging stations across African cities and African highways, making it easier for both individuals and corporations to adopt the EV because they are more likely to buy an EV if they know they can have access to charging stations,” Ajaere says.