Silent witness

Silent witness

You have to wonder why this was never done before. Well, not that we know of, anyway. GAVIN MYERS drifts far away from the urban jungle, imagining game drives in this electric Landy.

You have an unparalleled view of the surroundings, as the usual Land Rover Defender rolls nonchalantly forward, as it’s done on the countless other game drives you’ve experienced.

Yet, things are eerily quiet, moving around out here in the middle of the bush. So silent you can distinctly hear the feint snarl of the out-of-sight lioness as she awakens for her evening kill; the myriad of insects because of which you’re now dousing yourself in citronella oil; the crocs emerging from the waterhole.

And the buzz of the mosquitoes as they get up-close and annoyingly intimate in a desperate attempt to begin their nightly feast.

Things are so calm, so serene, so natural; and it’s all because that intrusive, out-of-place diesel chatter (and the subsequent fumes) is lost on this particular game viewing experience.

The ranger from Londolozi – one of South Africa’s pioneering private game reserves – explains this electrically powered Defender came from a need of his park for an ecologically sensitive vehicle with dependable off-road abilities. Announced by Land Rover South Africa, the all-electric vehicle has been developed by local Land Rover specialist Barker Performance Products, with technical support from Land Rover product development specialists.

As Kevin Flynn, managing director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, puts it, the Electric Game Viewer Concept is the perfect synergy of the Defender’s outstanding reputation as the definitive game-viewing vehicle, as well as Land Rover’s drive to reduce emissions.

At the source of your extraordinary game viewing vehicle, is the specially made electrical system that comprises an air-cooled AC induction motor linked to a 300-volt 27 kW-hr air-cooled Axeon lithium-ion battery pack. It was fundamental that this entire system be configured to fit into the vehicle’s engine bay to maintain the Defender’s necessary ground clearance, wading depth and extended seating capacity.

Producing 59 kW of power, with a regenerative capacity of 10 kW, and an instantaneous 330 Nm of torque, the motor complements the Defender’s highly lauded off-road ability. It’s exactly the same setup as with a normal Defender – standard permanent four-wheel drive system with differential lock.

“The all-electric game viewer concept has zero tailpipe emissions, thus offering clean and silent operation, and reducing the impact on the highly sensitive environment in which these vehicles operate,” says Flynn.

Land Rover claims that in practical use, on a single charge, the electrically-powered Defender is capable of a range of 80 km with an additional 20 km reserve. This equates to an eight-hour game drive, or roughly three times the average range of your typical outing.

Recharging is by means of an integrated single-phase charger that connects to a conventional electrical point. The best bit, though, is that the battery system can also be charged by means of a solar charging unit, thus making it totally emissions-free.

Calm has prevailed again, the night sky is something to savour, and the natural silence is almost deafening as you head back to the lodge.

Well, it would be if those incessant mosquitoes would buzz off.

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