Enhancing transportation with solar-powered trycyle

Chioma   Emma.

Transitioning to solar-powered auto rickshaws (kekes) is crucial due to its significant benefits in reducing air pollution, mitigating climate change, and promoting sustainable energy use. Air pollution from conventional kekes contributes to serious health issues. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes around 7 million premature deaths globally each year. Shifting to solar power could drastically cut these emissions, by improving public health.

Electric vehicles, including solar-powered kekes, convert over 60% of the energy from the grid to power at the wheels, significantly more than the roughly 20% efficiency of gasoline vehicles. This transition also addresses climate change by reducing CO2 emissions. The transport sector is responsible for about 24% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, as reported by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Nigeria has identified transportation as one of the priority sectors for emissions reduction in its low carbon growth strategy called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are part of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Although estimates for the number of tricycles in Nigeria are hard to come by, it is undeniable that large-scale adoption of solar kekes or even complete replacement of conventional ones can go a long way in achieving these NDC targets.

An African born entrepreneur and innovator Anthony Okafor in his quest to revolutionize the Nigerian transport sector has introduced a solar-powered tricycles.

Okafor the inventor of  Solar powered tricycle.

Okafor is a Nigerian entrepreneur and an auto engineering graduate from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, who is seeding to  transform the face of African transportation with his solar-electric powered tricycle, affectionately known as “Nikeke.”

According to Okafor,the reason for his invention stems from his passion to address the persistent challenge of environmental degradation, overuse of fossil fuels, and economic constraints within the transport sector.He was inspired by his experience in electrical engineering and training in solar power.

Nikeke the  solar powered tricycle  invention

Nikeke tricycle  runs entirely on solar energy.  it is clean and non-polluting with zero emissions, and also doesn’t need fuel, the cost of which has been rising in Nigeria.

The solar-powered tricycle does not just hold an advantage over its conventional counterpart in how clean it is – it also trumps it in terms of performance. Possessing a 100 amps battery with a lifetime of 3-5 years, the solar-powered tricycle can travel distances of up to 170 kilometres on a single charge.

Nikeke’s Challenge.

His current challenge is raising the financing for the assembly plant in order to meet his current target of assembly of 240 tricycles a month.

He has been knocking on the doors of commercial banks, the Anambra State Government, the bank of Industry and the National Automotive Design and Development Council in order to access the needed financing through loans and grants.

He also  pointed  out technical hurdles, such as optimizing battery life and ensuring vehicle durability, and demand for continuous research and innovation.

But then,he says his team is at the forefront of addressing these issues by integrating cutting-edge technologies like hemp battery technology to enhance the efficiency and performance of the tricycles.

Impact and Recognition

The impact of Okafor’s innovation is profound. Nikeke promises to uplift socio-economic standards by providing cost-effective, reliable transportation for small-scale traders, commuters, and entrepreneurs. This initiative has not only earned the accolades of the international community but also stands as a symbol of Nigerian ingenuity and resilience.

According to Okafor, a conventional tricycle operator makes about N7000 daily and spends about N1500 daily on fuel. He also spends about N40,000 annually on the maintenance of his tricycle. “When you take away the cost of fueling and steep maintenance costs with the solar-powered tricycle, it gives him the power to earn up to N400,000 more yearly which is almost the cost of a new conventional tricycle,” Okafor said.

He explained that the impact of the solar-powered tricycles extends beyond urban centers, offering rural communities improved access to essential services and markets. He maintained that the lip  in  mobility is expected to unlock economic opportunities, enhance quality of life, and promote social inclusion in areas traditionally marginalized by inadequate transportation infrastructure.

Experts Speaks about  Okafors invention

David Omata  is a sustainable  development  expert. He lauds Okafor’s initiative  for its eco-friendly design, which reduces emissions and is fostering clean energy use. He says the social impact  overtime would provide employment  and improve rural mobility. He added that economic viability, scalability, and durability makes it a promising solution for sustainable transportation, aligning with long-term environmental and socioeconomic goals.

Sustainability/Endorsement

Okafor mentioned that his solution, the solar-electric powered tricycle, represents a significant leap towards sustainable transportation adding that by harnessing solar power, the tricycles offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional gasoline-powered modes of transport, promising to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.

Spokesperson for a U.S.-based economic development non-profit Jeff Greene,  for SCC/WinBat,  says the initiative is a “Nigerian Success Story,” which underscores the global recognition and support for Okafor’s vision.

This endorsement from a global tech company following Okafor’s partnership with the Sustainable Communities Corporation (SCC) and the introduction of hemp battery technology from WinBat company both stands as credible affirmation of the viability and transformative potential of Okafor’s solar-powered tricycles.

Beneficiary speaks.

Chinedu, is a local commuter.He says as  someone who commutes daily in Lagos, the introduction of the solar-powered tricycles has been a game-changer for him. “Previously, my commute was not only expensive but also contributed to the pollution that plagues our city. Now, riding in Okafor’s ‘Nikeke’ is not just cost-effective but feels like I’m doing my part for the environment. The ride is smooth, and knowing it’s powered by the sun makes the journey even more satisfying.”

Future Plans

An optimistic Okafor who in spite of the challenges says his future plans are ambitious and include broadening the product range to include quadricycles and electric bikes, establishing battery and plastic recycling programs, and expanding the market reach beyond Nigeria to the rest of Africa adding that his efforts are geared towards creating a sustainable, integrated transport ecosystem that aligns with global environmental goals and addresses local needs.

Nigeria will not be the first place where a solar-powered tricycle has debuted a similar one was developed by a Spanish startup early this year, while a hybrid tricycle that runs on a combination of electric, solar and pedal power was developed as far back as 2014 in the United States.

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