Get off the beaten path with electric vehicles!
To reduce their environmental footprint and improve their accessibility, many outdoor destinations offer an array of electric vehicles that includes ATVs, Segways and electric bicycles.
The use of electric modes of transportation in outdoor destinations essentially addresses four objectives closely tied to current tourism trends:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: More and more, people want their travel experiences to include environmentally friendly activities.
- Improve accessibility for people with reduced mobility: According to Kéroul, the travel market for people with limited physical ability represents 15% of the Quebec population and will grow in the coming years, due to the aging population (see also: Examples of best practices for improving accessibility).
- Increase access to areas with no vehicular traffic or that require visitors to be in top shape: Tourists are demonstrating a growing interest in bicycle touring. However, the steep mountainous terrain of certain areas can be a barrier to soft adventure enthusiasts.
- Develop original, innovative, unique tourist products: To diversify their activities and stand out from the competition, some destinations are investing in models from the rapidly evolving electric vehicle industry. These innovative products can help generate word of mouth about the destination.
Here are several examples of how tourism businesses use these electric vehicles out in nature.
The electric bicycle
Already a fixture in some urban centres, the electric bicycle (e-bike) is increasingly popular in natural environments. Equipped with an electric battery and a small motor, it lets users select their desired level of assistance, according to their needs. While the primary advantage of this device is to reduce the physical effort of biking, it is also quiet, environmentally friendly, and an incentive to engage in outdoor activities.
In the Mont Blanc mountain range, four resorts have organized thematic routes for electric touring bikes that cover places of cultural interest or explore the region’s mountainous landscapes and villages. Along with the bike, renters receive a “road book” that offers an overview of the itineraries available. In addition, tourists can download the eRando application, which provides informative content about the primary areas of interest located along the way. If they wish, clients can also be accompanied by a guide.
Source: Val d’Arly, Mont-Blanc, ©Val d’Arly Tourist Office
The all-terrain Segway!
The Segway X2 was designed and developed for off-road and forest trails. After taking a short training session, tourists at some destinations can take a forest tour aboard this unusual zero-emission vehicle. For example, Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario offers guided Segway tours along the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Other North American destinations offer similar tours, like Camelbeach Waterpark in Pennsylvania and Snowshoe Mountain, a resort in West Virginia.
Source: Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia, ©Philip Duncan
As part of its environmental management program, Sépaq is increasingly turning to electric vehicles in its parks. For example, Station touristique Duchesnay, located in the Quebec City area, has purchased a dozen Segway XTs to offer its visitors guided nature hikes.
ATV, safari and heritage?
Located in Montebello, Camp Explora offers couples and families a “mystery safari” experience aboard an electric ATV. Equipped with an iPad, participants and their co-pilots roam through the woods in search of clues to solve riddles and uncover the secrets of the lost club of Montebello. This green activity is quiet, enabling participants to observe the area’s flora and fauna; at the same time, it encourages visitors to explore local heritage sites. Available summer and winter, this innovative experience offers access to areas that are difficult to reach using other modes of transportation.
Source: Camp Explora
Adapted vehicles for people with reduced mobility
Developed primarily for people with reduced mobility, electric 4×4 ATVs can be used to safely and ecologically roam through forests. The French company Mobile Dream, which manufactures this vehicle, designed an adjustable seat that adapts to different body types; the vehicle also includes side supports that enable people with reduced mobility to transfer easily from their wheelchair.
The nature centre run by AF Organization in France has many electric 4x4s for rent. One model is even equipped with tetra grips, which are specifically designed for individuals with more physical limitations. The centre offers guided tours for children, families, the elderly and people with reduced mobility. Itineraries have been created especially for thrill-seekers, nature and heritage lovers, and those wishing to see the sunrise.
Network Carradale, a Scottish tourist centre, rents out electric off-road scooters to enable the elderly and people with reduced mobility to access its forest trails and accompany their families on long hikes.
While destinations look for new ways to make these electric vehicles part of their tourism products, manufacturers continue to innovate. What electric vehicles will we encounter next on the forest trails of Quebec?
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− Bordji, Sandra. "Vélo Electrique de Randonnée ou comment concilier pratique du vélo et dénivelé montagnard!" Voyageons-Autrement.com, July 10, 2013.
− Greenetvert.fr. "Des scooters électriques tout terrain pour visiter les forêts écossaises," May 29, 2013.