Tolulopeo Olukokun, the founder and CEO of ThinkElectric Africa, recently quit his job at the Federal University of OYE EKITI in Nigeria to focus on ThinkBikes. Olukokun had been lecturing courses in Mechatronics Engineering for the past 10 years, as well as building the ThinkElectric Africa Initiative. Using his savings, he has decided to bootstrap his ThinkBikes startup.
ThinkElectric Africa is an organization with a mission to accelerate Africa’s transition to renewable energy and sustainable transport. “We do this by uplifting and educating the people,” says Tolulopeo. ThinkBikes is a micromobility company that is manufacturing 2- and 3-wheelers locally for last mile transportation of goods and people. Tolulopeo has been experimenting with several projects over the last 9 years and believes the time is now right to go fulltime to focus on ThinkBikes Limited.
ThinkBikes’ first product is an electric cargo tricycle called Alpha 1.0, targeting the burgeoning on-demand delivery and logistics industries. Over 90% of the components are sourced locally, including the bodywork, the wheels, and the batteries. Only the electric motors are imported. The battery packs are made using repurposed/recycled 18650 cells, similar to what other startups in this field do, such as Bodawerk in Uganda.
This recycling of cells recovered from old laptops is another great example of how electric mobility promotes the circular economy. The assembling of battery packs from repurposed cells allows them to lower the costs of their products significantly to levels that are more affordable for their target market. The battery packs are 1.68 kWh. The motors are 1.5 kW (peak) and the bikes have a range of up to 100 kilometers when empty and 60 km when loaded.
ThinkBikes is targeting small to medium enterprises in Nigeria’s booming logistics and delivery industry. These include farmers, agricultural processors, retailers, and general traders. The response from their initial engagements in Ibadan, Abuja, Lagos, and Port Harcourt has been encouraging. ThinkBikes has already received over 100 orders for its tricycles.
Last year, ThinkBikes received recognition in the form of a grant award in a competitive process from the Siemens Stifftung 2021 Innovation Call, titled E-mobility made in Africa for Africa. ThinkBikes is now looking into developing and adding cooler boxes and chillers powered by solar panels, due to the high number of requests from potential clients who are in the fishing industry and the trade of perishable goods. This will go a long way in helping to reduce food waste.
ThinkBikes will also launch a leasing service/subscription business where its clients can rent a bike on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. ThinkBikes will have a key focus on remote monitoring. One of the biggest issues is the overloading of 2- and 3-wheelers in general. It is common to see even 2-wheelers carrying several bags of cement. ThinkBikes focuses on IOT-backed telematics, including payload weight data, and hopes to track and minimize these issues. “We are also looking at collecting data that will help us and the government plan for a sustainable city and transportation system in Nigeria,” says Tolulopeo.
Images courtesy of ThinkBikes
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