It has been difficult so far, to achieve improved adoption of electric vehicles, but a certain Nigerian entrepreneur is taking a gradual approach to cleantech for transportation.
The Nigerian startup and entrepreneur, Tolulope Williams is taking the bull by the horn with his recent production of electric vehicles made for a clean Africa.
Tolulope Williams is a legal practitioner who loves tech, toys, motorbiking, and travelling. And in the late 2000s, he made several trips to Asia.
Williams visited several trade fairs, and a trend caught his attention; he saw several innovations and captivating technologies based on clean energy. The bike lover, Williams came to the fore as he decided to purchase an electric bike which he brought back home to Nigeria.
“I think everybody wants to be a biker, as well. I always wanted to be a biker. But, I didn’t think I had the time to ride or maintain a petrol engine. So, using an electric bike, I realised like, maintenance is way easier, and it’s user friendly,” said to ‘Techpoint’.
Africa’s automotive sector has had its share of challenges over the years. Despite the well documented harmful effects of carbon emissions on our environment, petrol engines in cars, bikes, and heavy-duty vehicles rule most roads across the globe in 2021.
However, companies in more developed countries are embracing clean energy solutions.
Interestingly, Indigenous companies like Nord and Asian companies like Hyundai have been delving into the technology for the Nigerian market. Despite making some important strides, African companies sorely lag behind their global counterparts where renewable energy is concerned.
Most Nigerian roads are notoriously bad and ridden with potholes, usually a nightmare for drivers, commuters, or any traveller, regardless of the vehicles they use. Besides notoriously bad roads, the country also has a history of epileptic power supply.
William’s decision to bring an electric bike to Nigeria could naturally raise the question, who buys an electric bike in Asia with better roads and stable power and brings it to Nigeria? Well, someone as passionate about clean and awesome looking technology as Williams.
When he returned to Nigeria with his bike, he discovered that the vehicle’s suspension wasn’t good enough for local roads since it was made for European and Asian markets with better roads.
Williams decided to do something about it, and that decision took him on a journey that birthed ‘Savenhart Investment Limited Technology (Siltech)’, a renewable energy transportation technology company, in 2012.
Being a lawyer by trade with no formal technology training, passion was all he had to go on. Williams revealed that he had to learn on the job, and he slowly began to understand the fundamentals of electric vehicles, from two-wheelers to three to four-wheelers.
Before long, Williams could fix the suspensions, increase the battery capacity, and improve the motor controllers on the electric bike he bought.
Williams says he was proud of the attention and the puzzled glances he got when using the sleek bike with an irregularly positioned engine.
Soon after, people around him began to take interest. Ezra Olubi, Co-founder and CTO of Nigerian fintech startup, Paystack, then a neighbour of his, saw him riding on his street and wanted one for himself.
After this, Williams realised that he could start a business, and Savenhart Investment Limited Technologies (Siltech) was born. However, passion and creativity alone would not cut it this time. So he plunged himself into more training and figured out other significant aspects of his business.
With Siltech coming to life, there was a bit of a talent hurdle to cross. Electric vehicle production is not exactly taught in Nigerian schools or regular auto assembly and repair shops.
Williams explains that the company employs people with pre-existing knowledge of motorbikes and combustion engines and trains them to assemble and maintain electric vehicles.
Building vehicles at scale for the African market has been complex. Williams says getting vehicle parts has been a bit tricky as everything needs to be bespoke.
Surprisingly, Williams doesn’t believe power has been much of an issue as the company uses a battery swapping technology that allows for flexibility. Users can charge on an inverter, a small generator, or with regular power.