Chairman of Nigus International, Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim is an expert in the automotive sector by global standards. He has worked with reputable global brands like Proton and Lotus. He was involved in Formula 1 as the first black man to ever be on a Formula 1 team. In this interview with BAYO AMODU, he spoke on the next big thing in the automotive world which is electric cars taking over from the regular cars with combusting engines and the opportunity for Nigeria.
What is the future of global automotive industry?
Countries across the world are phasing out vehicles with combusting engines. For instance, the UK is going off hydro carbon by 2040, and no more hydro-carbon energized cars, because there will be no internal combusting engines; France is the same; Indians even fast-tracked theirs by opting for 2030. Are we going to become a waste bin for combusting engine cars by 2040? We are blessed with abundant sunshine in Africa, yet we are energy deficient. The question I always get asked when I speak in events is: ‘how do you want to get energy for electric cars when you don’t have electricity for your homes.’ The reality is that electric cars can be powered by batteries which are charged by either the means of conventional power or as it is done in Europe through storage systems that are storing power from solar. We got involved with BYD which is the largest producer of electric cars in the world and we focused on them for one good reason – the international brands out there, Mercedes, Tesla, BMW, Volvo, have made it clear that by next year all their cars will no longer be combustion engine cars. Ford just announced that it would be building electric cars in China under a new brand and it just occurred to me that if all this is happening around us, this is also a great opportunity for Africa to ask why can’t we build our cars and why can’t we develop our own branded vehicles because the one component that we are always lacking in the intellectual property, is in the engine of the car. We can design. After all a Nigerian designed one of the bestselling cars ever made. So, I took the module that I learnt from Proton and what proton did was what Malaysia used to create a car of its own, by going to Mitsubishi and it said to Mitsubishi, ‘give me a car’.
What are the opportunities for Nigeria?
There is an opportunity for Nigeria and Africa to start that next frontier which is electric vehicles. We want to be at that cutting edge. The way we want to do that is learn about the vehicles, learn about the engineering and be a manufacturer by 2040 when everybody else is now saying combusting cars are banned. We want to say ‘keep your combustion engines in fact, we are now importing any combustion engine, we have a nationally produced vehicle or a continentally accepted vehicle’, so that was my push. BYD spent about seven months doing some due diligence. We came together, we agreed on the way forward. We just signed an agreement to first import either the BYD vehicles, look for a Nigerian brand, we are still looking at the name, that we want to use, and by 2020, we would start an assembling plant here, assembling Nigerian branded electric vehicles with all the modern accruement that you want in a car, Yes it would have its DNA initially started from BYD; and BYD head engineer was the head engineer from Audi, so we know that it’s going to be a tremendous amount of creation of comfort and modernity in these cars and we are hoping that by the time we start assembling these cars. We would also bring Nigerian designers from around the world to come in and have an Africanized DNA in this vehicle as well. So we are looking at competition for design. The beauty of our building an electric vehicle is that you are not looking at anything too complicated, you have got the drive which is the electric drive and everything else is just the creation of comfort, of a high speed car or SUV and the buses also and we have the electric trains.
So you can see it’s coming but are we ready? And that’s what I am trying to do, I want us to be ready, I want us to harness this technology, I want us to have our own DNA and so the relationship with BYD is going to create that in a very simple way. Teachers have to assemble and then that give us the knowledge to develop a unique product for our continent. That vacuum that would be left between when hydro carbon stops, to electric cars coming into play, is between now and 2030. I believe Nigeria should be in that position of leadership on the continent. So, Nigus is to develop this idea that by early next year, we would start importing the vehicles, we have a show here that we want to do on November 26, which would show case the car, the SUV, the bus; we are going to be showcasing the industrial applications which are tractors and forklifts. Even municipal vehicles like trash compactors and water trucks are driven by electricity.
What is your partnership with Abuja mass transit all about?
We have gone far enough to go to Abuja infrastructure Investment Company within FCTA? And the minister has been kind enough to listen to us; he is excited by the project; we would like to see if we can make Abuja one of the first cities to go green with this public transport and we are providing a project with Abuja mass transit through the Abuja infrastructure investment firm, to bring those buses into Nigeria by next year and that would be a PPP proposition with the minister of FCT. We realized that by our E6 Nigus BYD car on the road, that is also a great way for people to see on the road that these cars are moving and they are doing very well and you get to experience it first hand. The cost of operations of electric taxi compared to hydro carbon taxi is a third of the cost of running a taxi in a year and the reason for that is that if you charge the E6 battery for the taxi, it would be 500 kilometers on one charge.
So during the day time when the taxi is out running, it’s storing the power, when you come at night, it’s only an hour of charge, you put it in and it charges the battery but there’s also something interesting about the batteries; they are 40 kilowatt batteries that are like a 45 KVA generator. You can actually take your connection plug and connect it to the car and it would light your house up, it would give you all the energy, including your AC, it’s not like a normal inverter where you cannot put your AC. The car can revert the power and deliver it in your home.
What about charging stations?
We are also looking to a joint venture with NNPC with BP in South Africa. We are talking about hydro carbon companies redefining themselves to energy companies. When we sat with them in South Africa we said why don’t you have these solar charging stations in your mega stations and it is the same thing we want to do with NNPC. We are not going to have many of them initially but as people begin to adopt and adapt to this, it is going to be something we will start seeing in people’s homes. Electric cars are here to stay and if anyone is under the illusion that electrified vehicles are a novel idea they have not only lost the bus they have missed what is coming in front of them and this is not time to field fiction.
What will be the cost of an electric car?
You cannot always be certain with these things because there are two things there. There are high grade versions which are the engines, gasoline engine and electric which are also phenomenal vehicles to use in case if one isn’t available, you could always use the other and switch between both and that’s the technology we are also thinking we might introduce at the same time, but you are looking at vehicles that are ranging between $26,000 and a $100,000 everything in between on cars and trucks. And nothing is different except for the running cost and you use it in comparable terms at the most 20% higher than the combustible engine car as far as the price is concerned. However, the operational cost is far less. Servicing of engine, no fuelling, no belt and the other parts of the engine that motorists regularly replace. The only most important cost component in the electric car is the battery. One consideration we are looking at is to lease batteries to electric car owners. You can buy you car without a battery and obtain battery on lease. This will also open up business opportunities for many other players to participate in the sector.