Africa’s first game drive electric vehicle (EV) unveiled

A South African company called Freedom Won has cleverly converted the vehicle from fuel to electric powered. Instead of using the normal diesel or petrol fuels, the EV is fitted with electric motor and batteries, which are charged after the vehicle travels an average distance of 100km.

The Land Rover Defender 130, now called “Freedom 3” (because it was the third vehicle at Freedom Won to be converted to electric, in August 2014) was the pioneer game drive EV. Another EV, Freedom 5, will be launched in February 2015. Freedom Won has also delivered a game viewing boat dubbed Freedom 4. It was converted in September 2014.  Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Chobe Game Lodge general manager, Johan Bruwer, said the introduction of electric vehicles and boats was in line with their sustainable eco-tourism strategy, which had led them to partner with Freedom Won. He added that they would convert 10 vehicles and six more boats in the near future.

Chobe Holdings Limited chief executive officer Jonathan Gibson narrated the “dream” that he said had started over a decade ago.

“One of my many dreams has been for us to have electric game vehicles and boats. We even built the concept of electric boats into the Chobe National Park Management Plan. The electric game drive vehicle is remarkable... It is non-polluting. From an energy perspective, it is incredibly cost effective to operate,” he said.

Botswana Tourism Organisation board member Thilo Naicker, applauded the strides made by Chobe Game Lodge as a “leader and trendsetter in eco-tourism initiatives”. She stated that Chobe Game Lodge was one of the facilities that had piloted the Eco-tourism Standards, and continued to develop responsible tourism initiatives like investing in pioneering an electric vehicle. Naicker described the unveiling of the electric vehicles as an opportunity to showcase best practice initiatives achieved by Chobe Game Lodge as well as Botswana as a preferred sustainable tourism destination.

It had cost R370,000 (P303,000) to convert a single Land Rover, and R260,000 (P213,000) to convert a single boat. Freedom Won charged R250,000 (P205,000) for a smaller vehicle.