The Nigerian Federal government has eliminated the petrol subsidy, causing the price of this crucial commodity to skyrocket and causing financial hardship for transporters and commuters. However, Chukwuemeka Eze, an engineer based in Enugu, is providing relief for Enugu’s transporters by converting their gasoline-powered tricycles into electric-powered vehicles.
Chukwuemeka Eze, a graduate of Electrical Engineering from the esteemed University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was part of the team that constructed Nigeria’s inaugural electric vehicle, the Lion Ozumba, in 2019. Rather than resting on his laurels, Eze harnessed his expertise, sourcing batteries and battery packs from China, and integrating them into the tricycles.
In 2021, he established a green energy enterprise named Revive Earth. The company’s goal is to revolutionize transportation by transforming existing gasoline-powered vehicles into fully electric ones. This venture currently commands most of his attention as he collaborates with other forward-thinking individuals and organizations to lay the groundwork for a green energy future.
Interestingly, Chukwuemeka always aspired to be an engineer, even before fully comprehending the field’s essence. He was drawn to the concept of creating objects and understood engineers as creators. His fascination with light, electricity, batteries, LEDs, and radios fueled his curiosity about all things powered by electricity.
After disassembling and subsequently repairing his father’s radio/cassette player, he honed his electrical skills by serving as an apprentice to a radio/cassette repairer after completing primary school. With a natural inclination for tinkering, he grasped the basics of electrical connections in lighting and cooling systems, even providing electricity to his father’s largely powerless house at that time.
Curiously, Chukwuemeka did not consider himself a top student in Secondary School, having failed mathematics in the West African exams (WAEC) on two occasions. However, he adopted an approach that would later become a guiding principle in his life. He decided to transform this weakness into strength by diving deep into the subject he struggled with, ultimately developing a passion for mathematics.
Journey into the Realm of Electric Energy for Creation of Electric Vehicles
Chukwuemeka Eze embarked on a journey into the realm of electric energy. While he gained admission to the university, it took just two years for him to recognize that he was not cut out for conventional engineering. Consequently, he delved into unconventional engineering methods. He utilized the internet to download and watch YouTube tutorials, and through these resources, he cultivated a profound fascination with embedded systems design and computer programming.
His exploration led him to study electric vehicles, and he found inspiration in Tesla’s work and sustainability ethos. This revelation convinced him that electric vehicles were the future, and he committed himself to understanding this technology to establish his own electric vehicle servicing company five years after completing university. He pursued internships in power electronics and embedded systems design and programming to advance his goal.
His pivotal moment arrived after completing an internship training program. Professor Ozoemena Ani, the founding Head of the Department of Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, attended a conference organized by the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) in Abuja. He returned with a determination to build an electric vehicle and assembled a team that included student engineers like Chukwuemeka. The ensuing four months were incredibly demanding but resulted in the launch of Nigeria’s first domestically manufactured electric vehicle, the Lion Ozumba 551, in July 2019.
Chukwuemeka recalls, “It was a tough four-month-long rigorous research. I was exposed to more than I ever saw in the past four years of my schooling. The vehicle was the result of that intense Research and Development. The media attention to it overwhelmed me personally. It got me re-thinking more wildly about the potentials of EVs in Nigeria.”
Motivated by this accomplishment, Chukwuemeka resolved to dedicate himself to electric vehicles, recognizing their vital importance.
Chukwuemeka founded Revive Earth in 2021
Capitalizing on the knowledge gained from the UNN project, Chukwuemeka founded Revive Earth in 2021. In a mere two years, the company has converted five tricycles from gasoline-powered to fully electric, in addition to converting two bikes. The first minibus model is nearly ready for launch. The company sources battery cells from China and assembles battery packs in its Enugu workshop to suit the specific requirements of the retrofitted vehicles.
Chukwuemeka elucidated the company’s mission, saying, “Our goal is to create a supply chain of sustainable transport systems for Africa which can utilize the technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as AI and IoT to create robust and sustainable transport system and mobility network that solve local problems.”
The retrofitted keke napeps now feature display dashboards indicating distance traveled. They utilize 5.12 kWh batteries, which can be fully charged for just N215, equivalent to N60 per kilowatt-hour.
A complete charge takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, and this process could be expedited with more advanced albeit pricier chargers. A fully charged lithium-ion battery can cover a minimum distance of 60 kilometers, which Chukwuemeka points out is only 40% of what gasoline-powered keke drivers spend on the same distance.
These electric vehicles operate nearly silently, and charging is a straightforward procedure involving a standard 13A/15A EU plug with an extendable cable, allowing drivers to plug the vehicle like charging their phone or computer. Chukwuemeka did, however, express his regret that charging infrastructure is not yet widely available, prompting the company to actively seek partnerships with financiers to invest in this aspect.
Chukwuemeka revealed, “We are looking to raise USD 800,000 within the next five years to expand our retrofit factory, equip it more, and aggressively market our product to benefit millions of Nigerians. One of the issues that mini-grid developers face is that of energy waste, like when you have built a massive solar farm but no one is using it, your investment will just lie in waste.”
He further argued that deploying these mini-grid systems in rural areas, particularly to power electric vehicles and encourage commercial adoption, would render investment in mini-grids and conventional electricity more appealing.
Regarding the company’s expansion strategy, Chukwuemeka outlined a ten-year vision in which Revive Earth transcends retrofit kits and establishes a comprehensive battery swapping/charging network to manufacture ground-up EVs tailored to local needs.
To this end, the company is currently training technicians for retrofitting and conversion. After rigorous training and certification, these technicians will collaborate with the company as agents, establishing operations in various locations. They will offer conversion services using Revive Kits and maintain electric vehicles, freeing Revive Earth to focus on system manufacturing.
Chukwuemeka and his team see themselves as catalysts for the African industrial revolution. They credit their accomplishments to a steadfast commitment to their objectives, meticulous attention to detail, and a shared sense of purpose within the founding team.
He reflected, “My philosophy was and still is that the same reason people think EVs won’t work in Nigeria is the very reason it should work. EVs will create commercial demand for electricity and make the sector more lucrative for investors. If we find a way to create EVs and EV systems that can subtly tap electricity, even from renewables, we would have created a wave of transformation in both the energy and transportation sectors that will never end.”
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