The Finale – Freedom3!

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Chobe Game Lodge’s FIRST Electric Game Viewing Vehicle, converted by Freedom Won, has been ‘released back in to the wild’ at her home in Botswana

There were heavy hearts and some tears (ssssh), when Team-Freedom Won ‘released Freedom3 back in to the wild’ this morning, waving her a very fond goodbye at 3.45 am (21/8/14). She’s now on route back to her Botswana Chobe home, where after her Gauteng Launch she’ll no doubt also create quite a stir! We took solace in knowing that at least we will see her again (strutting her electric stuff) when we spend some time at Chobe this October (2014) commissioning Freedom5 – Chobe’s First Electric “skimmer” River Boat…

Freedom3, the special Electric Land Rover created by Freedom Won is a Defender 130” Pickup with Crew Cab. It was originally fitted with a 2.5L Td5 engine and a 5 speed manual gearbox. The model year is 1999 with serial no. 833359. It was modified for game viewing duty by removing the roof and installing three rows of three seats each with a canvas roof, making it an 11-seater.

The Land Rover has been transformed almost beyond recognition under the bonnet, but the exterior remains unaltered and distinctly Land Rover. The magic lies in the 80kW permanent magnet motor that is coupled directly to the original transfer case, which delivers 600N.m at low speeds thus effectively eliminating the need for a gearbox. We have retained the High/Low and Diff Lock functions in the transfer case so it is still a very rugged off-roader…

The motor is driven by an advanced technology inverter specially designed to run permanent magnet motors. This unit manipulates the 580 Volt (V) Direct Current (DC) power source into a precision controlled variable frequency three-phase Alternating Current (AC) sign wave, which in turn accurately and smoothly delivers the exact amount of torque “requested” from the driver to the motor.  To the non-engineering types – forget all this, it is awesome to feel and experience the electric exhilaration without knowing exactly how it works!

The heart of this tamed beast is of course the long life and lightweight lithium iron phosphate cells. The battery pack boasts 35 kilowatt hours (Kwh) of energy and operates at a nominal 580V. This voltage, being relatively high in most people’s books allows greater efficiency all round, in the conductors, cells, inverter and motor. It also aids with preserving the expensive lithium cells for a longer life because the average current draw is well below the cell’s design limit. Driving with such high voltages in your car might be disconcerting to some, but there are various features that contribute to a safe experience such as fully enclosed battery boxes, double layered insulation on power cables, fused power circuit and contactors that isolate the inverter when the vehicle is switched off.

The game viewing experience is very special, especially in the Chobe National Park where the game are abundant and the Chobe River presents a setting that drags you softly into a bush Nirvana of flowing waters and tweeting birds. That is of course until the game guide starts up that riotous diesel engine again and puffs black smoke over guest and game alike…enter Freedom3, Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana’s first electric game viewing vehicle, and with Land Rover appeal to boot.

Freedom3 is the first of several electric conversions that Chobe has set out to accomplish with Freedom Won. It is capable of creeping along sandy rutted tracks and climbing rocky ascents, then setting out on the open road at speeds up to 120km/h… Chobe Game Lodge intends to use Freedom3 for two/three game drives per day, the traditional early morning and late afternoon drives around the park and along the river. Freedom3 will also be used daily to commute guests to and from the Kasane International Airport, which is a 30km round trip. Each game drive amounts to a similar distance.

Given that most of Freedom3’s driving will be on sand tracks a typical range is estimated at 120km. On the open road she will manage 150km if driven carefully – remember she has a large drag coefficient with all the guest seating paraphernalia mounted on her.

In Freedom3’s off time she will be receiving a charge in the lodge’s dedicated Electric Vehicle (EV) charging bay, which takes prime location in front of the lodge. A simple 30 ampere (A) 230V single phase source is all that is required to power up the 5kW charging system, with all control managed on board by the advanced Battery Management System (BMS). An average charge will be two to three hours, although if Freedom3’s cells have been fully depleted she will need 6 hours to ‘fill her tanks’. The electricity consumed at CGL originates from the Victoria Falls hydroelectric power scheme and is thus environmentally friendly. Solar panels are however a natural “Phase II” proposition for Chobe Game Lodge (CGL) and any other lodge not fortunate to have access to clean energy. Clean and quiet transport is not the only draw card for CGL. They will achieve substantial savings in diesel consumption. There is no maintenance required on the EV drive train, so the difficulties of maintaining a vehicle in a remote area will also be reduced to looking after the Land Rover transfer case and differentials, which will inevitable leak some oil at some point…

We have found Freedom3’s performance to be superb. She accelerates faster than the original would have – we would say – and only stops at 120km/h because that is where the electronic limiter reminds us we are driving an open top Land Rover Pickup! The torque is adequate for most driving in Chobe and low range will only be needed in rare and extreme circumstances. There is one improvement we seek however, the synonymous Land Rover final drive unit (differential) backlash shows up more than ever on an EV with instant motor response and no clutch!

Freedom Won was inspired over ten years ago to develop electric car conversions. Our prototype Freedom1, an electric Jeep Grand Cherokee (do we hear jeers or cheers from the Landie owners?), has been running since December 2011 and has covered 45 000km of ‘almost free’ driving. Freedom1 is expected to continue at this pace for 10 years before the batteries show signs of age and warrant replacement. We are excited about revolutionising environmentally conscious game lodge’s transport, which is not limited to Land Rovers, we can convert almost any vehicle, and in fact

we are building an electric river game viewing boat (Freedom5) also with CGL. The opportunities are immense…

The Land Rover has been fun to work on, it is simple (we fondly use the word ‘agricultural’) and there is lots of space amongst the chassis members for installing the electric motor.

Converting this vehicle was special to us because it combines in the Land Rover Defender an old, loved, and sometimes quirky brand with the new high tech ‘green’ Freedom Won brand of the future. It was a mainstay vehicle in the game viewing arena and with Freedom Won’s environmentally conscious technological revival the Defender could regain its historical place from the Land Cruiser, which seems to have encroached on its game viewing territory…

Johan Bruwer (Chobe Game Lodge), Team-Freedom Won SALUTES YOU for pioneering the way with Freedom Won and sharing our green vision, commitment and determination to keep electrifying for a quiet clean future!

Plug into the future… with Team-Freedom Won

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