Sunreef Yachts recently created the ultimate crossover vehicle: an off-road safari car that runs on the same electric technology used on the company’s solar catarmarans. Even better, it was produced solely as a charitable donation.
The tricked-out “Land Rover Defender” was converted by the Polish shipyard for exclusive use by the Massai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) to help in its efforts to protect the ecosystems of east Africa.
Sunreef’s founder took a special interest in helping to customize the rugged car. “The company’s leading position in sustainable yachting motivates us to share our knowledge and know-how with inspiring partners,” explains President Francis Lapp on the company website, adding that “the MWCT brings a fantastic vision to life: working with the proud Maasai community to protect Kenya’s unique natural heritage and wildlife. The definition of responsible travel that the trust promotes is one-of-a-kind and I feel Sunreef Yachts shares the same philosophy.”
Lapp’s firm got started in 2002, when his luxury sailing tour business was unable to secure enough suitable vessels for the clientele. He subsequently founded Sunreef Yachts to provide state-of-the-art sailing and power catamarans for the growing global demand. Mixing his “fascination with cutting-edge technology, safety, efficiency, and care for the environment,” the president and company unveiled their eco-yachts in 2019: boats that feature silent, zero-emission, electric propulsion engines and hundreds of roof and wall-mounted solar panels.
The new safari roadster is a product of Lapp’s love for the Earth, as well as his personal experience with converting off-road vehicles for his numerous 4×4 races (in fact, it was a motor race that first brought him to Poland and gave him the idea to start his business there). Getting his hands dirty for this worthy cause, Lapp worked with his team to cut out the enclosed back of the UK-purchased Land Rover, giving it a still-recognizable yet much more airy profile.
The company then attached solar panels to the roof, using the same revolutionary tech only found on Sunreef’s sleek eco-catamarans. The engine was also given an electric upgrade, with a commanding battery reservoir built to handle all the demands of the African landscape. The team notes that “the mechanical and electrical systems were specifically calibrated to respond to the needs of the eco-luxury lodges” based on the requests of the MWCT.
For the past 20 years, the conservation group has run high-end “responsible tourism” operations that focus on being green. Its Campi Ya Kanzi in southern Kenya is a boutique eco-lodge that makes use of rain cropping for water, photovoltaic panels for electricity, and earth-friendly charcoal stoves. The MWCT also runs the Chyulu Wilderness Camp, a program that gives international students a chance to both experience the beauty of east Africa and get involved in preservation undertakings like reforestation, working alongside the Massai people.
With the donation of this unique Defender, MWCT can now chauffeur the people on their safari tours around in sustainable style, more consistent with their core values.
And this cool Land Rover overhaul may not be the last crossover scheme to come out of the shipyard. “The Sunreef Yachts Eco technology designed for yachts is now applied to an electric car,” Lapp adds. “I am happy to witness this evolution and am confident it will lead to more exciting projects.”