EV safaris promise cleaner, quieter wildlife tours

You can see the animals without disturbing them.

Monicah Mwangi / reuters

Safaris can help you see nature, but they also tend to disrupt nature — the loud, smelly vehicles involved can disturb animals and hurt the environment in the process. They're quickly becoming less intrusive, however. Reuters notes that the Kenyan-Swedish firm Opibus is converting diesel and gas safari vehicles in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve into electric models.

The converted EVs are not only quieter, but don't rumble or spew foul odors that might alarm animals. Many of the other benefits of electric cars apply here, too. Opibus' conversions don't produce CO2 emissions, and the company claims that electric motors cut operating costs in half by ditching fuel (and, we'd add, the quirks of combustion engines).

Opibus is the only company performing these conversions in Kenya, and it has only electrified 10 vehicles so far. There are also practical challenges to deploying safari EVs. African electrical grids aren't always reliable, and charging an EV in a nature reserve isn't as simple as finding a public station. There's also the simple matter of range — safari companies can't necessarily afford hours of downtime to recharge vehicles in between tours.

Even so, it's easy to imagine EVs finding widespread adoption in Kenya, South Africa and other countries where safari tourism is vital. The less intrusive the vehicles are, the more likely it is that wildlife will continue unimpeded. That's good for both the animals and the tourists hoping to spot elephants and lions that might otherwise stay away.