Lion Ozumba 551 – The Nation

  • UNN must be encouraged to take its electrical car innovation to the distance

It is not often that Nigeria spotlights its acumen in the field of technology. A nation whose schools lag behind in science subjects and suffers from a lack of research and development (R&D) tradition sees innovation in technology on the bottom rung of priorities.

So, it was cheering news when the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, unveiled Nigeria’s first electrical car. The vehicle, named after its inspiration and former vice chancellor of the institution, is called Lion Ozumba 551. The former vice-chancellor’s name is Professor Benjamin Ozumba. The vehicle is a product of the university’s Faculty of Engineering.

At a ceremony to unveil the car, the university earned plaudits from Jelani Aliyu, the director-general of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC). Narrating the origin of the act of engineering, Aliyu said: “NADDC on February 6 invited the UNN, University of Lagos, Usman Dan Fodio University and Meterological Institute and urged them to prepare a paper design on how to produce electric car in the country. The council is happy that UNN is the first to prepare a paper design and produced electrical car that has been unveiled and test-run today in the university.”

This is a feat, if not a wonder in Europe or North America. It is the beginning of what is potentially a stride. Lion Ozumba 551 is not an “assembled” innovation. According to the university, 80 percent of its content was obtained locally and it cost a trifle N800,000.”

Although it cannot outlast many in the world today, it can take, when fully charged, a journey of 30 kilometres before it will be recharged. And it can be recharged in any socket. It also promises, with greater effort and clever tweaking, to increase in capacity. In unveiling the car, Lion Ozumba 551 was test-driven around the Nsukka campus, a milestone in a technology in Nigeria.

The car benefits from the university’s gasification project under which it has installed 100 KVA Refuse Driven Fuel (RDF) for its Nsukka campus. The project is designed and fabricated “by a laboratory of industrial power devices and energy system under a special grant by Ozumba,” according to Professor Emenike Ejiogu who led the research team.

“The aim is to enable UNN to generate its own electricity with organic waste that will serve as fuel,” said Ozumba.

This shows that UNN has an integrated approach to power and innovation, and that without power technology is futile. Its foray into the electrical car enterprise signals UNN’s drive to pursue cutting-edge thinking in a nation that has remained complacent. It is also significant because Nigeria is not familiar with the R&D culture that has powered disruptive inventions in the West.

We have quite a few wealthy Nigerians whose assets could easily fund young and adventurous citizens bubbling with audacious new ideas. But such wealth often plumes the bank vaults of the West when they are not frittered away for political elections.

But the lead ought to come from the Federal Government that should set the tone by guiding the private sector to invest in a bold new world. The same university once developed a barber chair. Humble as it is, it signals active thinking. A few other universities have done same, but they only end as headlines. The nation moves on with its ennui and lack of a vision into the future.

We have had many young Nigerians who have shown enthusiasm and originality. Some of them are wooed away to the United States and Europe where they make the most of their talents for those communities, just as we have seen in the brain drain in the medical field.

The electric car is the future of motion. Lion Ozumba 551 should not be a stillbirth.

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