The latest innovation in the world of sustainable safari is all about the volts powering your game drive. Electric safari cars, though still in its infancy, are rapidly getting into pole position for zero-emission, carbon-neutral holidays in Africa.
Electric safari cars are typically retrofitted diesel 4×4 vehicles – the internal combustion engines are replaced with an electric motor, batteries and charging points. The result is a near-silent, solar-powered vehicle that significantly reduces the disturbance for animals and the harm done to the environment. This conversion can cost up to $60 000 but with vastly reduced running costs, it’s believed that the investment can be recouped within four to five years.
What Are the Benefits of Electric Safari Cars?
1. Smooth & Silent Game Drives
Electric safari vehicles are almost completely silent. Safari-goers can enjoy driving through the bush noiselessly, thus minimising the disturbance for wildlife. Furthermore, the near-silent vehicles amplify the sounds of the African bush – bird and animal calls become much easier to hear.
Wildlife photographers will also love the total absence of shuddering start-ups and jerky gear changes that are synonymous with diesel-powered 4×4 safari vehicles.
2. Zero Emissions
An electric safari vehicle does not burn any fuel. There is no need for exhaust systems and therefore no hazardous gases are emitted into the atmosphere.
Electric safari cars are much more reliable than any standard combustion engine, as the motor relies on only one working part.
4. Low Maintenance
Running costs are greatly reduced in electric safari cars. There is no need to purchase fuel – the vehicles can be powered by the sun – and almost no maintenance is required on an electric motor.
Electric safari cars run at around 95% efficiency vs 20-30% for standard combustion engines. This is a significant improvement in the performance of the vehicle. Capability is also not a concern – electrical components are rugged and the sealed ‘engines’ allow guides to wade through deep sand and even ford rivers.
From Kenya to Kruger, there are a handful of lodges and camps that have embraced this low-impact approach to sustainable eco-tourism. These safari operators are at the cutting edge of innovation:
Chobe Game Lodge, Botswana
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana pioneered the electric-powered eco-safari concept. In 2014, the lodge launched the first electric safari vehicle and electric safari boat in Africa. Today, its electric safari cars make up the majority of its fleet, and more solar-powered safari boats have been introduced.
Chobe Game Lodge’s electric safari cars charge via a big solar panel station on the property, and offer guests silent, CO2 emission-free game drives in Africa’s elephant empire – Chobe National Park is home to the world’s biggest herds.
But no Chobe safari is complete without experiencing the magic of the Chobe River. The lodge’s solar-powered boats are specifically designed to ensure complete comfort and superb views. Boating safaris are ideal for avid wildlife photographers because it offers ample space for equipment and unique angles not available on 4×4 vehicles. This water-based activity is a highlight of any stay at Chobe Game Lodge. Watching thirsty elephants line the river’s edge, boisterous hippos argue over lagoon real estate, and hundreds of antelope (including the rare puku) make their way to the water are unsurpassable game viewing experiences.