Electric Bush Bike

Electric Bush Bikes

Wildlife tourism is a powerful driver of economic growth—and job creation—in South Africa, but that virtuous cycle is threatened by poaching. And the dirt bikes most often used for patrol against the illegal trafficking and killing of animals can create more problems than they solve. For starters, they use fuel that’s expensive (which diverts money from conservation efforts) and bad for the environment. They also typically run on noisy combustion engines—that alert poachers to scram before authorities can move in.

Swedish e-bike maker Cake partnered with the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) in a push to change that. The goal? Develop an electric vehicle that would help rangers navigate rugged terrain more covertly and effectively—and do so in a more eco-friendly manner. 

To launch the Electric Bush Bike pilot, Cake donated two bikes along with two solar-powered charging stations.

“The Cake bikes are quiet, which makes it easier for us to approach poachers undetected,” says Mfana Xaba, anti-poaching team leader, SAWC, Hoedspruit, South Africa. “We hope this collaboration will result in more effective anti-poaching in our region.”

Armed with SAWC feedback and requirements, Cake redesigned its bikes to make them better suited for use in the wild, with added features like wider wheels and tires. The team also sealed motors and drivetrains to protect against dust and incorporated new cooling solutions to compensate for the loss of ventilation. The real innovation: Cake built in software that allows users to quickly switch the bike’s performance so they can choose to prioritize speed when they’re chasing poachers or to maximize battery range during routine runs.

To give the SAWC even more flexibility, Cake developed an outback patroller and an off-grid transporter, which comes with an added metal crossbar that can serve as a remote workbench or carry supplies.

“The college is a true dream partner, thanks to their knowledge and connections on the whole continent,” says Klara Edhag, collaborations and project leader at Cake in Stockholm. “They educate poachers in over 100 parks in Africa, and are also collaborating with WWF and Peace Parks Foundation, just to name a few. This gives us trust and true value where we’re operating.”  

Phase one of the pilot ended in January, with rangers not only reporting success in stopping illegal attacks but major savings in both cost and carbon emissions.

For Cake, the project is part of its larger efforts to align with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by delivering zero-emission transportation solutions. While the company continues to gather feedback from rangers, it’s also taking steps to increase the social impact of the project. Last year, Cake introduced a “buy one, give one” campaign where commercial buyers could also donate an anti-poaching bike to SAWC. As part of that incentive, Cake and project partner Goal Zero donated solar charging stations for each bundled sale. As a result, an extra eight bikes have been donated to the rangers.

“No matter if it’s for anti-poaching aspects or providing the perfect transport tool for the plumber, we’re trying to inspire the world—contributing to speeding up the journey toward a zero-emission society,” Edhag says. 

Photo credit: Cake


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