Jelani Aliyu: The Nigerian Tech-whiz Who Designed The Phenomenal Chevrolet Volt


Jelani Aliyu was born in 1966 in Kaduna. He is from Sokoto State in the northern region of Nigeria. He is the 5th of the 7 children of his parents, Alhaji Aliya Haidara and Sharifiya Hauwa’u Aliyu. Jelani says he has always loved drawing and wanted to be a car designer. And his dream came true in the most jaw-dropping way.

Jelani Aliyu is the ingenious brain behind the “American Revolutionary” Chevrolet Volt. Currently he is the senior and lead exterior designer at General Motors. Some of his designs under the GM models are currently on sale in the United States, Canada and Europe. It took 10 months for the volt dream to be actualized.

“I draw a lot and also designed my own cars and even built scale models of them, complete with exteriors and interiors, so that is from where get my inspiration.”

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In the 70’s he had already completed his basic education at Capital School Sokoto. He gained admission into Federal Government College, Sokoto. There he received a couple of awards in Technical Drawing. His engineering skills has never been in question. He had planned to study architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. The tech-whiz eventually obtained a scholarship from the Sokoto State government.

On his arrival to the United States, he enrolled at the College for Creative Studies (CSS), Detroit, Michigan in 1990. He studied Automobile Design for 4 years and obtained his degree in 1994. In the course of his study, he won two awards from Ford Motor Company and Michelin, US. He started work at General motors in 1997. By 1999 he moved to Germany to work in the Europe division.

In an official statement by GM, in New York, Jelani Aliyu was announced as the winner of a 10 month auto-engineering competition. It was noted that Jelani’s invention was eco-friendly with an apt ergonomics. The car uses gas engine to produce additional electricity. The statement further appreciated Jelani’s brain child saying,

“GM’s most electrifying advanced technology vehicle is the Chevrolet Volt concept, a battery-powered, extended-range electric passenger vehicle”.

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As at January 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voted the Chevrolet Volt the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the market. The car runs on battery-power combined with a gasoline consumption of 3.8 L/100 km.

Jelani Aliyu is a proof to the power of the human imagination. The intelligent and skilled international designer to the best of public knowledge is living his dreams. It is refreshing and inspirational to come across the likes of Jelani. From a happy and humble beginning, he pushed on with consistent hardwork to get to where he is today.

“We must never underestimate the amazing power of human imagination, the ability to envision a dramatically positive and dynamic future. Every great city, every monument, every historic feat, as it stands for all the world to see, was once pure thought, pure imagination acted upon and brought into reality. To imagine is to dream, to dream is to tune in to the ever fascinating possibilities of the future.

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Jelani Aliyu