Dispatch | South Africa

Silent drive: Cheetah Plains goes electric

‘Matt, our guide, asked if we were ready to leave. He switched on the engine silently and we glided off with barely a sound. In the other vehicle, everyone lost interest in the leopards, turning to gawp at our Cruiser in slack-jawed confusion.’ 

Heather Richardson, guest of Journeys by Design, wrote a piece in the Telegraph recently, having travelled to Cheetah Plains, a new lodge located in a private concession bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa. It is the first South African lodge to go have battery powered vehicles. Richardson’s impressed: Electric vehicles are the future, both on the road and in the bush. And on safari, there’s a bonus: silence is a luxury – and when it’s good for our planet, it’s even better.’ 

When innovators of the Netherlands, Hungary and US first began manufacture of small-scale electric cars in 1828, we were a far cry from sustainable usage. Still, inventors began work on electric cars to supply the high demand and between 1900 and 1912 a third of cars on the road in US were electric – even the famous Thomas Edison was on board, working to design a more efficient battery. Unfortunately, with the subsequent discovery of cheap crude oil, by 1935 electric cars had all but disappeared.  

Since then an evolutionary arms race in battery cell technology, developed hand in hand with the concurrent and exponential increase in solar power, has kickstarted the popularity of electric vehicles again. Perhaps Cheetah Plains’s Land Cruisers  each of which is fitted with a top-of-the-range Tesla battery  are just the beginning. The cost of conversion is currently eye-wateringly expensive. However, it will pay dividends both in the savings in fuel cost and the CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, costs will almost certainly come down. According to its manifesto, Tesla aims to make its battery technology cheaper and more available to everyone.  

Sophia Littledale, another guest of Journeys by Design, recently visited the lodge. As impressed as Richardson, she raved about the heated seats and fact that even the most skittish wildlife will stick around for longer given the silent engine. Stay tuned for her blog on the whole experience, and do have a read of the Richardson’s article; there’s much more in there than I’ve had the space and time to cover here.  

If you’d like to experience a luxury safari itinerary including Cheetah Plains, please do get in touch, one of our Destination Specialists would be happy to start the conversation. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Travel ideas, conservation stories and the latest from our exploration team