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Jet Motors assemble first electric vans in Nigeria

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A Nigerian vehicle assembler is importing parts from China to build electric cars in the nation, undeterred by the power shortage in Africa’s biggest economy.

Jet Motors, which assembles cars is importing the power train of the vehicle from China’s Jing-Jin Electric Technologies Co., the battery from KeyPower, another Chinese firm, while the shock absorber is from Stellantis NV’s Jeep.

Battery-powered vehicles are a novelty in Africa’s most populous country where only about a half of the residents have access to on-grid power supply and most homes and businesses go for days without electricity. Nigeria is able to supply just about a third of its installed capacity because of dilapidated transmission infrastructure. Jet has yet another challenge — inadequate charging points.

That’s prompted the company to produce just three cars, named Jet Mover EV, a day, compared with eight non-electric JET Mover mini buses, according to Chief Executive Officer Chidi Ajaere. Jet has three charging points in Lagos and a fourth one expected in neighboring Ogun State this year.

There is a growing potential for electric vehicles in the West African nation as President Muhammadu Buhari encourages investment in renewables. The government plans to set aside 10% of the 2.3 trillion naira ($5.6 billion) it is spending to spur an economic revival, toward providing solar power for households. The nation has pledged to cut carbon emissions 20% by 2030 under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The challenge toward migration to electric vehicles is “the proportion of Nigerians that can afford the vehicles is small and the proportion than can afford to purchase and charge electric vehicles is even smaller,” Osato Guobabia, CEO of Enej Insights, an energy information and auto consultancy, said by phone.

The company’s electric vans costs about $90,000, a steep amount in Africa’s most populous country, which is also host to the highest number of people living in extreme poverty globally.

Jet is in talks with private investors, the government’s National Automotive Design and Development Agency and Canada’s Africa Development Capital that previously funded the research for the automobile, to invest in charging points in the country’s highways, according to Ajaere.

“We will be able to further drive up the demand and appetite for electric vehicles once we get the needed charging infrastructure,” Ajaere said. “We can even use solar energy to charge the battery, which is cost effective, compared to the standard electricity and it preserves the environment.”

KeyPower is producing a 107.6 kilowatt-hour battery, with capacity to run the vehicle for 250 kilometers (155 miles). It charges for two hours, once a day and the batteries can be used for 11 years, according to Ajaere.

Jet plans to ramp up production to 50 vehicles a day over the next three to five years if the charging points are installed in strategic locations in the country, Ajaere said.

The company plans to meet rising demand from transportation and logistics firms turning to the electric cars in Africa’s largest crude producing nation to cushion gasoline costs and other maintenance charges.

“We see immense opportunity for electric car makers to invest in Nigeria, if we look at just the population,” Ajaere said.

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