Cheetah Plains, an exclusive lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park, is sporting three new custom-built electric game vehicles, reducing sound pollution in the area.

Credits: Mike Eloff.

Owner of Cheetah Plains, Japie Van Niekerk, was the driving force behind these new prototypes. “For years I was involved in motorsport, and South Africa has fantastic motorsport engineers.  I got hold of one and we both saw this as a challenge.” 

He told Tourism Update that when designing the vehicles, his instruction to the developers was: “I want a vehicle that looks like a Land Cruiser, drives like a Range Rover, but silent like a golf cart.”

Van Niekerk says the prototypes are completely silent, therefore offering guests undisturbed game viewing as wildlife are not frightened away by the noise of an engine. “It’s upsetting when you are at a sighting and need to move a metre, as starting the engine makes a huge noise and upsets the wildlife,” added Van Niekerk.

The electric vehicles, driven by Tesla batteries, are partially charged via solar panels, which Cheetah Plains added to the charging package on December 15.

According to Van Niekerk, a typical game drive in the reserve is 30 kilometres, with this in mind the Cheetah Plains protypes have a range of up to 50 kilometres per charge, however Van Niekerk says they are working on adjustments to extend the length of game drives.

The seats of the custom-built electric vehicles were completely reinvented and redesigned, as they are heated and much larger than those in a standard game vehicle. The reason for this, explains Van Niekerk, is that most lodges’ guests pay top-dollar to sit in “shabby seats”, hence the reinvention.

The project took two years, however the vehicles only took seven weeks to build locally.