ELECTRIC GAME DRIVE VEHICLES: HOW SAFARIS ARE GOING ELECTRONIC

Rebuilt from diesel-powered vehicles, South Africa’s first custom-built electric game drive vehicles are now operating around Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve. 

From the likes of automotive pioneers such as Tesla to other manufacturers such as BMW, both new and established motoring brands have rushed in to produce their electric vehicles; cars with instant power delivery, economical running costs, and that are made with cutting-edge technologies. Now, South Africa’s first custom-built electric game drive vehicles are operating around the Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve.

Tipped as the ultimate electric game viewing vehicle standard in South Africa, the new fleet of vehicles is designed to deliver a zero-emission and sustainable luxury safari experience. What’s perhaps more impressive is that these aren’t just vehicles that have been made from scratch – rather, they’ve been converted from a fleet of existing diesel-powered vehicles.

Tipped as the ultimate electric game viewing vehicle standard in South Africa, the new fleet of vehicles is designed to deliver a zero-emission and sustainable luxury safari experience.

The initiative isn’t just remarkable for these astonishing ecological benefits – in fact, the experience these new vehicles could provide may offer up many other benefits to the safari industry.

One of the leading figures behind the initiative is Japie van Niekerk; a rally car driver who has put his knowledge of car mechanics up to the test. By using the frame of existing vehicles in addition to new technologies and Tesla batteries, Japie aimed to produce a new standard for safari vehicles by bringing electric technologies – all the near-silent benefits of an electric battery – to bear in an immersive safari experience.

Perhaps best known as an esteemed builder of more ‘conventional’ vehicles, Cliff Barker is another name who is now heavily involved in the development of the electric safari vehicle. Cliff himself made the first electric safari vehicle a reality by building his prototype out of an existing diesel-powered vehicle.

Cliff didn’t stop there and issued his designs with modified suspension for a softer and smoother ride, USB charging ports for guests’ smartphones or cameras, a water-resistant engine, and even the capability to partially recharge his vehicle through solar panels – making for a convenient and tech-savvy fit for the modern safari-goer.

Fully electric carbon-neutral vehicle in Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve. Image: Cheetah Plains

The benefits offered to both guests and game rangers include an entirely new safari experience. Electric safari vehicles don’t just offer a new drive experience thanks to near-silent engines that issue no emissions but further deliver the highest-quality wildlife sightings thanks to their unobtrusive nature; enabling avid viewers, photographers, and videographers alike to get closer than ever to both prey and predator.

For drivers, the vehicles offer a top speed of 65km per hour and can drive up to 50km before requiring a recharge. Game drivers themselves have noted that wildlife has become more familiar with the presence of near-silent electric vehicles, while guests themselves have complemented the experience made possible by these eco-conscious machines.

This bold and brave new fleet of electric vehicles is set to delight travellers the world over with an unforgettable safari experience that delivers unparalleled, unobtrusive, and up-close encounters on the wild side within the Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve.

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