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Tanzania Supports New Electric Vehicles, Spurring Ecotourism

Image courtesy of A.Ihucha

Tour operators in Tanzania are whetting their appetites for cutting-edge and environmentally friendly electric vehicles in their efforts to reduce emission, cut oil import bill and spur the ecotourism industry.

The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) Chairman, Mr. Wilbard Chambulo, said if all goes well, plans are to rollout between 50 and 60% of an estimated 100,000 vehicles carrying tourists by 2027. This is part of their latest initiative to go green and bring down vehicular pollution within the 22 national parks.

Official data from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism shows that Tanzania is home to 1,875 licensed tour operators. “We are going to embrace the e-cars massively, because trailblazing technology is the future of transportation. It offers a lot of benefits in terms of conservation, economics, and tourism,” Mr. Chambulo said shortly after the launch of an e-motion campaign to tour operators organized by TATO. 

The chairman of the flamboyant association with 300-plus members across the country said electric vehicles would add value to the Tanzania destination, as tourists increasingly prefer the eco-friendly tourism destinations. In France, a recent study shows that 54 percent of people intending to travel abroad for vacations are considering eco-friendly tourism destinations.

Again, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) declared Costa Rica with 1.7 ton of carbon dioxide emission per capita, compared to only 0.2 tons of Tanzania, as the winner of the 2019 Champions of the Earth Award, offering the country a selling point as the top ecotourism destination. As a result, Costa Rica attracted 3.14 million tourists in the same year, earning $3.4 billion, compared to 1.5 million tourists visiting Tanzania with less carbon dioxide emissions.  This means that the more a destination is seen as green, the more it attracts tourism.

Electric cars (e-cars) are a carbon monoxide free technology that are reliable and comfortable vehicles solely depending on solar panels to reel its engine. Experts say the e-car reduces maintenance costs, and it doesn’t use fuel, as it is 100% ecologically charged thanks to solar panels. This implies that the tour operators, Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA)’s vehicles should be converted into electric cars and will significantly reduce emission, cut oil import bill, and stimulate ecotourism.

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The Bank of Tanzania monthly economic review indicates that during the year ending October 2021, oil imports increased by 28.4 percent to $1,815.5 million mostly on account of volume and price effects, as average crude oil prices surged to $82.1 per barrel in October 2021, supported by growing demand amidst tight supplies. Tanzania imports nearly 3.5 billion liters of refined petroleum products annually: petrol, diesel, kerosene, Jet-A1, and Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO).

The Mount Kilimanjaro Safari Club (MKSC) tour company rolled out the first 100% electric safari cars in the East African region in 2018, with its Managing Director, Mr. Dennis Lebouteux, testifying that he indeed confirmed that the technology works in Africa, as is the case in Europe where there are ready-made infrastructures.

“With nine cars, we operate roughly 12,000 km per month as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced our activity. We have spent a maximum $2,000 on spare parts in 4 years,” Mr. Lebouteux said, adding, “Running an e-car can save an average of $8,000 to $10,000 on fuel alone per year.”

“The silent and environmentally friendly e-safari vehicles can approach wildlife without disturbing them.”

Three institutions, namely Hanspaul Group, Carwatt, and Gadgetronix, have also roped in Arusha Technical College in their bid to increase the number of technicians capable of servicing and carrying out maintenance of the e-vehicles. The three firms with a unique set of skills and expertise each have embarked on a project dubbed E-Motion to convert petrol and diesel systems of vehicles into electric ones, making Tanzania the second country in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa to use electric vehicles for safaris.

While Hanspaul Group has been in the business of fabricating safari van bodies and other special purpose vehicles for over 4 decades now, Carwatt, a technology company based in France, has a vast knowledge of electric cars and has retrofitted several vehicles. Gadgetronix, a Tanzanian company dealing with energy solutions, has installed solar farms of up to 1 MW, among other notable projects. The input of the Arusha Technical College, which is a member of the E-Motion board, is to provide experience, research, and practical implementation to students. 

“We are reviewing the college curriculum to incorporate new technology components, including electric vehicles,” confirmed Engineer David Mtunguja, the Head of the Automotive Department at the college, adding that the revised curriculum would come into force in October this year when a minibus belonging to the college would be converted into an e-vehicle.

The trio of companies through the E-Motion project embarked on a campaign in northern Tanzania to woo tourism industry investors to consider retrofitting their old tourist vans into new electric vehicles. Retrofit is a smart technology whereby engineers remove the combustion engine, exhaust pipe, fuel tank, and other fuel system parts of an old vehicle to replace them with an electric system comprised of 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, told tour operators when flagging off the campaign at Arusha Hotel currently known as Four Point by Sheraton.

Electric vehicles will not only transform the driving experience of tourists into a more peaceful, smooth, and environmentally responsible era, but also reduce a tour operator’s operational costs and fetch him carbon credits.

“Electric vehicles neither consume fuel nor do they need engine services. They do not produce noise or smell,” Mr. Sajan said. He allayed the fear of the tour operators of recharging electric vehicles, saying the project would put up sufficient stations along the tourist attractions routes.

“We in the conservation field do not want emissions and noise; adopting this technology is very important,” Conservation Commissioner of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Dr. Freddy Manongi, once said in an interview.

E-Motion already has built some electric vehicle recharging stations in Arusha City and Mugumu township as well as at some tourist attractions, including Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks and key sites of the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, namely Seronera, Ndutu, Naabi and Kogatende. At least three tour operators, who have converted their vehicles, are using the recharging stations.

While Miracle Experience Balloon Safaris has converted one of its safari vehicles to transport tourists to national parks, Kibo Guides has partnered with E-Motion to retrofit one of its 100 safari vehicles. Tanzania National Parks has given the E-Motion four Land Cruisers to convert them and build a charging station for rangers to silently carry out their anti-poaching operations and the conservation agency to save millions of shillings on fuel and vehicle services and maintenance.

E-Motion is also converting a bus into an emission-free vehicle to pick students and staff and to recharge it in the sun during the day ready for picking them up again in the evening to drop them back home. The company supplies one phase portable chargers with a maximum capacity of 3 KWH for recharging anywhere, 20 KWH wall chargers for indoor and outdoor use, and 50 KW super chargers powered by solar panels or directly from the grid at permanent stations to be strategically located across the country.

A vehicle equipped with 36 KWH to 100 KWH batteries has a range of between 120 kilometers and 350 kilometers depending on the landscape and obstacles encountered. It takes between 4 and 8 hours to completely recharge it.

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Adam Ihucha - eTN Tanzania

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