SUNDAY February 13, 2022
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
Tour operators are developing a new niche for Tanzania tourists’ destination believing it will kill two birds using one stone.
They are increasingly adopting electric vehicles to add value to the experience tourists get from safaris and to conserve the environment.
Tanzania is the second country in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa to use electric vehicles for safaris.
Experience shows tourists from countries with zero tolerance to environmental distress opt for electric vehicles even when the price of a product goes slightly higher, the Chairman of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Mr Willy Chambulo, says.
“Electric vehicles will transform the driving experience of tourists into a more peaceful, smooth and environmentally responsible one,” he says
Mr Chambulo adds that the vehicles also reduce a tour operator’s operational cost, fetch him carbon credits and saves foreign exchange the country incurs in importing fuel.
He calls on petrol stations owners to consider diversifying their business by investing in recharging stations for electric vehicles whose technology was increasingly being embraced globally.
Apparently delighted by the tour operators’ resolve, Dr Freddy Manongi, the Conservation Commissioner for Ngorongoro Conservation Area, says the technology is more than welcome.
“We in the conservation field neither prefer emissions nor noise pollution, adopting this technology is very important,” he explains in an interview with media practitioners.
Three local tour operators, namely Mount Kilimanjaro Safari Club, Miracle Experience Balloon Safaris and Kibo Guides have been applying the technology for four years now.
While the pioneer, Mount Kilimanjaro Safari Club, has so far converted a fleet of 12 vehicles and intends to add eight more vehicles should restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic be widely relaxed, Kibo Guides is converting the first out of its 100 safari vehicles.
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has also jumped into the bandwagon, saying the move will go a long way in keeping poachers at bay.
TANAPA is converting four Land Cruisers for rangers to silently carry out their anti-poaching operations and the state-run conservation agency to save millions of shillings on fuel and vehicle service and maintenance.
Also being converted into an emissions-free vehicle in the godsend-rich East African country is a minibus for picking students and staff in the morning. The solar-powered bus will be left recharging in the sun before it picks up the students and staff again to drop them back home.
Going by the Mount Kilimanjaro Safaris Club Managing Director, Mr Dennis Lebouteux, electric vehicles save a lot of useless kilometres.
“With a diesel car, one carelessly travels twice to petrol stations, but owing to the limited charge, he restricts himself to his mission once he drives an electric vehicle,” he explains.
Three firms with a unique set of skills and expertise each have teamed up along with a learning institution to grab the opportunity for converting petrol and diesel-powered vans into electric ones.
They have jointly founded a project dabbed E-Motion to convert the vehicles. Hanspaul Group, Carwatt and Gadgetronix have also entered into an agreement with Arusha Technical College to train technicians in servicing the vehicles.
Hanspaul Group is renowned for fabricating safari vans’ bodies and other special purpose vehicles and Carwatt, is a France-based technology company specialised in electric vehicles.
Gadgetronix is a Tanzanian company dealing with energy solutions with installed solar farms of up to 1MW. Arusha Technical College will provide E-Motion with experience, research and practical implementation.
“We are reviewing the college curriculum to incorporate new technology components, including electric vehicles,” Engineer David Mtunguja, the Head of Automotive Department, says.
The revised curriculum will be in use in the forthcoming semester to begin in October this year. The collage already has set aside its minibus for students to convert it into an electric vehicleΩ
MORE INFORMATION: Retrofit
The process of converting vehicles is known as retrofit among engineers who apply the smart technology to replace the combustion engine, exhaust pipe, fuel tank and other parts of a petrol or diesel system with those of the electric one.
Key parts of the electric system often installed in old petrol or diesel vehicles include an electric motor, battery system, an on-board charger and an information display.
“When you sell your old vehicle, it will come back to the market and probably harm you,” Mr Hasnain Sajan, the Gradgetronix Managing Director, cautions tour operators.
Electric vehicles neither consume fuel nor do they need engine services. They do not produce noise or smell, says Mr Sajan.
Allaying the fear of the tour operators of insufficient stations for recharging their electric vehicles, Mr Sajan says E-Motion will roll out stations along all tourist attractions routes.
Currently, recharging stations are accessible in Arusha City, Mugumu township, Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks and Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area sites, namely Seronera, Ndutu, Naabi and Kogatende.
Mr Sajan explains that a 50-kW super charger powered by solar panels or grid will be installed at each recharging station to be strategically located across the country.
E-Motion will, in addition, supply one-phase portable chargers with a maximum capacity of 3kWh for recharging anywhere and 20-kWh wall chargers for indoor and outdoor use.
It will also offer a two-year warranty for all components it supplies and a 12-month after-sale service free of charge. After two years, the vehicle owner will pay $500 for service and $1,000 after 36 months.
A vehicle equipped with 36kWh to 100kWh batteries has a range of between 120 kilometres and 350 kilometres depending on the landscape and obstacles encountered. It takes between four and eight hours to completely recharge it.
Retrofitting a 36kWh basic safari vehicle equipped with a 280-Wt battery to last 120 kilometres will cost $38,000, while the price for a premium plus package for an 84-kWh vehicle equipped with 640-Wt battery to last after 300 kilometres stands at $54,900Ω