The race for Africa’s electric vehicle (EV) space has already begun. Despite the many deterring challenges like poor power generation and infrastructure on the continent, some players have nonetheless, decided to be pioneers of the industry.
In Kenya, ARC Ride has started penetrating the market with its electric two- and three-wheelers. Similarly, Rwandan start-up Ampersand and Uganda’s Kiira Motors are making a push with their electric bikes and locally made electric buses respectively.
Now, a powerful rival from Nigeria, JET Motor Company is joining the fray with the launch of the first fully electric van to be made in Africa – JET EV.
Innovating for the African market- JET’s journey
Founded in 2018 by Chidi Ajaere and a team of passionate professionals, JET Motors Company wants to accelerate Africa’s dominance in the future of mobility by reshaping the narrative of the mobility space.
Current reports estimate that about 40% of the global export for used vehicles comes to Africa. In Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, it is estimated that about 80–90% of total vehicles are imported.
In 2019, JET launched its flagship brand, the JET MOVER, a multipurpose van to push the adoption of locally made vehicles.
Explaining why JET decide to start with vans, Mr Joseph says that in Nigeria and Africa in general, a greater percentage of the population depends on commercial vehicles. As such, the JET Mover was aimed at helping people move efficiently via this common means of transportation.
However, this not the core of the company goal. It revealed that it has a lofty mission to lead Africa into a new era of mobility. According to Mr Chidi, this means leading Africa to the new world of electric vehicles.
“The world is moving from combustion engine to electric vehicles, and the world is already talking about autonomous vehicles. No one has or no, one’s really talking about that narrative here in Africa.”
Mr Chidi further added that “We believe in a global vision for Africa, and we think that Nigeria is rightfully placed. Africa is rightfully placed to lead the automobile narrative, especially in the new era of mobility.”
Start of a new era – electric vehicles
To achieve its lofty goals, JET Motors launched its latest product JET EV, earlier this month. The vehicle has the distinct characteristic of being a 100% electric vehicle with 0 emissions.
Joseph Wemimo, Director of Strategy and Operations at JET reiterated Chidi’s position. He said the aim of the company was to go into the production of electric vehicles from the start.
“JET decided to start from known to unknown. the known then was the internal combustion engine, which we started in 2019 with the launch of JET Mover. The unknown is the new JET EV we launched earlier in the month,” he said.
The basic purpose for establishing JET is to build electric vehicles and research in the autonomous space
Asked how JET’s EV hopes to compete with global brands like Tesla in the country, JET’s founder explained that the company knows the African market better than the Europeans and better than the Americans and even the Asians.
He added that they have taken their time to customize vehicles specially made for the African market and the African narrative.
Joseph added that the JET EV is a fusion of European design, Asian technology and tropicalized African use making it the best for the region. “The vehicle is the meeting point of the best in design, the best in technology, and then tropicalized for African use.”
A vehicle built for the African road
A familiar concern for many Nigerians that have heard about electric vehicles like Tesla is how will it survive on the hazardous roads in Nigeria. Their concerns are valid as there is a 50% chance you find a porthole in every 1 kilometre of road in the country.
According to Joseph, JET Motor has solved this by providing an electric vehicle that isn’t afraid of portholes, flooded roads and huge bumps on the country’s road.
“We cannot construct roads but we build vehicles that are well suited for the Nigerian roads.”
Ebuka Uchendu, Technical Lead at JET EV explained that the EV’s have reinforced suspensions and shock absorbers that can withstand the terrain in Africa.
For floods, the company says it has upgraded the corrosive nature of its vehicle to prevent underbelly rust which most vehicles on the continent suffer. It added that it has put in place corrosion-resistant devices while increasing the ground clearance
“JET Motor Company is a future-oriented company – playing not for today but playing for the future.”
Chidi Ajaere, Founder of JET Motor Company
Up to 250km after single charge
Considering the high traffic on the roads, the JET EV was built with a high capacity battery of 107.6 kilowatts. According to the technical lead, the vehicle can cover a distance of 250 Km. However, under proper extrapolation, he added it could reach 300 km.
Speaking about the rate of battery discharge, Mr Ebuka says the EV’s drainage is very low in traffic and doesn’t discharge at all when parked.
For extreme heat and other environmental hazards, JET says it equipped the battery with an IP6 ingress protection rating. This means that the batteries are secure and safe with a decomposition temperature of around 600C.
Other features include high capacity traction motors that could accelerate levels between zero to 200Km/h in less than 20 seconds and Superchargers that can charge the EVs in less than two hours from 0 to 100 SOC.
Currently, the EVs are being charged using the power station built by JET for its partners. However, Mr Chidi says the EVs can be charged with any power source.
lower maintenance cost
The use of internal combustion engines brings a lot of challenges for Nigerian user. From the availability of new and quality replacement parts to the exorbitant cost of operation and maintenance cost added with low technical expertise.
For JET Motors, the solutions to these problems are the JET EV. According to the company, it reduces the number of engine parts by almost 70% thereby cutting maintenance cost.
Similarly, operational cost also drops significantly, as worry over fluctuation in the prices of fuel is out of it.
“If you look at the price of fueling a vehicle for 250km you will see that using an EV will give you a lower cost. for example, looking at the current billing charges from electric companies you will see that you can charge the EV to full charge with N6,000 while fueling a vehicle now in Nigeria for 250km will cost between N10, 000 – N15, 000,” Ebuka explaind.
Asides from cost, the JET EVs are eco-friendly. They’re also quieter with zero emissions which makes them good, not just for the environment, but also for the health.
Moving in style and comfort
Moving on from performance, Mr joseph touted the vehicle’s design, aesthetics and comfort saying, “you can walk comfortably in the car without bending your head. This a unique proposition for the many people that have experience head collision with the avenging roof of a vehicle.”
Another feature is the personalized entertainment system. According to the company, the device allows you to play games, watch movies and listen to music.
Representing Africa on a global stage
The drive for EV adoption is growing across the world. The G7 (Group of Seven) have already put modalities in place to ensure that by 2030, most vehicles produced will be electric.
However, according to Mr Wemimo, Africa is being left out in this conversation. He added that the company wants to change that by being the voice of Africa in the Global electric space
Currently, JET is focused on selling its EVs to fleet operators – people that have more than two or three vehicles either in transport, logistics or organizations.
According to Chidi, this is because 90% of the African population, especially in Nigeria and Ghana, use mass transportation when they travel by road. “when they go by road, how did they go by road? Do they have personal cars? No. They usually go by mass transportation. The most prominent means is mass transportation today in Africa.”
Going forward, the JET founder revealed that his company is open to funding but only interested in VC or institutional investors, who care about the environment and believe in its long-term vision for the mobility space in Africa.
The company’s last funding was in 2019 when it raised over $11 million for research and development in the EV space. Mr Chidi says all the funding went into designing the current catalogue of vehicles.
With the right funding, JET plans to plant its charging stations all across African cities and African highways, making it easier for both individuals and fleet operators to easily adapt. After that, it intends to ramp up production.
It also plans to eventually look into employing battery swapping technology for ease of charging.
Although JET’s main focus is currently vans, Chidi has dropped hints that the company has started researching and will be considering introducing passenger lines like the SUV, utility trucks, and luxury cars in the future.
However, within this decade, JET wants to export its cars across all the African countries and then move beyond the shores of the continent.
Looking at the trends in the automobile industry, most of the major vehicle production countries are already setting deadlines for 2040 for the shift of production from internal combustion engine to EVs.
JET wants to position itself to be the Tesla for Africa by providing Africans with environmentally-friendly vehicles that will take the continent into the future of mobility.