14 sep 21

Solar-powered 4x4s transforming Safaris in Africa

Countries in the African Continent are some of the worst affected by climate change but despite being some of the poorest in the world, African entrepreneurs are doing everything they can to be part of the environmental solution.

The Continent enjoys plenty of sun. So, in this case, a handful of luxury safari lodges are pioneering the future of emission-free mobility in the bush.

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According to an article on Bloomberg, the diesel-hungry Land Rovers and Land Cruisers are being replaced by eco-friendly, whisper-quiet vehicles powered by sunshine.

EVs don’t scare away the animals

Aside from being better for the environment, the fact that the vehicles are quiet is an advantage in that it makes it easier to hear the tell-tale calls of wildlife, which enables guides to get closer to the action. The quietness also doesn’t scare away the animals. Electric vehicles are low maintenance and Safari operators don’t have to deal with the logistics of getting diesel or petrol to remote, bush locations.

Electric safari vehicles in Africa even have their own acronym - ESVs. They are typically rebuilt diesel Land Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers. Private companies in South Africa and Kenya are responsible for most conversions, replacing the engine, gearbox, and combustion components with an electric motor, batteries, and control system. The process costs from $35,000 to $45,000 per vehicle.

Building solar-powered depots

Alongside converting existing diesel vehicles to electric power, African Safari owners are investing in total regeneration projects to enable them to run the whole facility on renewable solar power. This includes building photovoltaic, solar panel-equipped depots where vehicles can be parked and charged overnight. They are also equipping tourist boats with solar panel canopies.

The converted vehicles are surprisingly rugged; sealed engines allow guides to ford rivers and wade through deep sand, just as they could with a traditional, ICE vehicle.

Current ESVs manage around 100 km (62 miles) on a single charge, roughly twice the distance of your average game drive.

Could this be the beginning of guilt-free tourism in Africa? And if converted diesel vehicles can handle the African bush, then surely they could be utilised anywhere.

Image courtesy of Cheetah Plains

Authored by: Alison Pittaway