EMERGING AFRICA

The Last Frontier

Sunday, Dec 17th

‘Made in Nigeria’ cars in The Netherlands

Nigerian students from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the University of Benin (UNIBEN) have succesfully participated with a fuel-efficient car in the Shell Eco-marathon Europe at Ahoy, Rotterdam.

Having passed all the rigorous technical and safety tests, Team UNIBEN took part in the race – the first team in Sub Sahara Africa to do so.
UNIBEN’s team manager, Adekoya Adeyemi, an engineering student said, "Even when we thought all hope was gone, we kept on checking and cross-checking and re-working the car, based on the observations of the assessors. I remember the very day we passed the weight test—we saw it as a miracle. We were told we failed the brakes inspection and had to go and re-work certain aspects. Certain things happen that are beyond human wisdom! When we got here we were scared of the intensive scrutiny. I am very pleased that we eventually scaled through."

Team UNIBEN entered the UrbanConcept category, which requires cars to include everyday features like space for luggage and windscreen wiper. Building the car has not been easy, especially because some of the car parts needed by the team weren’t available in Nigeria. Where possible, the team used local materials: the car’s brake pads are made from palm kernels and the interior is lined with adire, a dyed cloth made in south-west Nigeria.

The students also added some innovative extras – including a windscreen wiper with a sensor that comes on automatically if it rains and a clap-activated lighting system.

Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Ben Van Beurden who visited UNIBEN’s stand at Rotterdam said, “The energy, the enthusiasm and the innovation that has taken place, and the fact that we have a Nigerian team here participating is an incredible milestone. In my mind, Africa is the continent of the future. It has so much potential: human potential, resource potential. It has so much dynamism, it has so much growth today that I think this actually is going to be a very very important milestone going forward. It is wonderful to have the Nigerian team here.”

At the University of Lagos stand, team members were also busy with their car. “Many people have been coming to our stand to ask about our car,” says Abraham Imohiosen, University of Lagos team manager. “It’s been a delight telling people about how we started and some of the challenges we faced.”

The students arrived early at Rotterdam in order to have enough time to work on  their car which was air freighted from Nigeria. “Because we came early, we have been able to fix some things that we were not able to do in Lagos,” Abraham says.

Team UNILAG are entering the Prototype category, which focuses purely on energy efficiency, using solar panels and an electric battery. Their car is currently undergoing a rigorous technical and safety inspection.
Shell Eco-marathon challenges students from around the world to design, build and race fuel-efficient vehicles. The judges will be looking to reward the cars that drive farthest with the least amount of fuel. This year’s competition sees over 200 student teams from 26 countries taking part. Team UNIBEN and Team UNILAG are the first teams from Sub-Saharan Africa to enter for the competition.