Today, we are talking about hydrogen fuel cell and autonomously driven vehicles as the next step. But as the entire globe braces itself for electrification, Africa seems to be lagging – but not for long. US-based electric car company Rivian has set its eye on the continent. In late 2022, multiple Rivian R1Ts were spotted in Kenya doing conservation work.
If you've been following our stories, you've probably read about the Rivian R1Ts helping preserve African ecosystems.
Well, the first time pictures of a Rivian R1T spotted in Nairobi, Kenya, surfaced online, most people thought it was the work of a proficient Photoshop editor.
Here's the truth. US consumers began taking orders in June 2021, with some owners still on the waiting list in 2022. Deliveries outside North America had yet to start, with the first deliveries expected in Canada by the end of 2022.
But in May 2022, an image of a Rivian R1T in the African savanna with a Maasai warrior and a giraffe in the background surfaced online. As it turns out, the American-based electric truck maker Rivian had started a conservation pilot project with Kenyan conservancy Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT).
Based on the information shared by the Kenyan conservancy, the collaboration aimed to preserve ecosystems in the region by doing anti-poaching patrols and off-road and on-road ranger operations.
It gets better. On April 1, 2023 (Fool's Day), another image of a modified right-hand-drive Rivian R1T emerged on Reddit. It had been converted to look like a tour truck (roof chopped off), perfect for a wildlife excursion in the African savanna.
On Sunday, another set of images emerged on Twitter, with a ride-along video showing a Maasai warrior behind the wheel. The Rivian electric truck in the video is an LHD (Left-Hand Drive) vehicle, while the modified (tour van) version was a Right-Hand Drive vehicle.
Since Rivian has only delivered vehicles to the United States and British Columbia, the RHD-modified Rivian R1T proves the electric truck company could soon expand its territories to regions that drive on the right-hand side of the road.
The Kenyan government doesn't allow the import of left-hand drive cars. But the Ministry of Transport is known to make some exceptions – MWCT's ecosystem preservation project is one of those exemptions.
"Magic happens! Had the privilege of cruising around the African Savannah in the only @Rivian's outside the US being driven by a Masaai! EVs are certainly the future in the game parks. They operate harmoniously with the environment," Twitter user @FawzanC wrote.
"This is incredible! Running an EV on safari would allow you to roll up silently on animals and not disturb them. How do they keep these charged, though? It seems like most lodges have moved exclusively to solar," Twitter user @dsjenson commented on the post.
Another Twitter user sought to find out if the Right Hand Drive unit came straight from Rivian or was the work of an aftermarket coach builder. That question remains unanswered.
We'd also like to point out that Rivian started deliveries in Canada in late 2022, with most of the deliveries making their way into the territory early this year. Therefore, Kenya isn't the only country other than the United States to have R1Ts on its roads at the time of publishing this piece.
It's a welcome gesture to have electric cars in habitat conservation – we hope this gesture will help streamline the shift to electrification in Africa.