5 EV Tours That Are Changing Sightseeing in the United States

Get a glimpse of the plugged-in future on these tours.

Two yellow miniature cars in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Your next tour could be all electric.

Courtesy of GoCar Tours

The electric revolution isn’t limited to the cars we drive (including those we rent): It’s changing the way we fly the skies, sail the seas, and even how we roll into camp. The latest part of your travels to get electrified? The sightseeing circuit. Tours across the United States are now seeing innovation via a slate of unique, eco-chic vehicles designed to get out and explore—minus the rumbling motors and carbon footprint.

Forget the stuffy tour buses with their idling engines: From the country’s first electric tour boat to a Cinderella-worthy e-carriage, these five low-impact EV sightseeing tours cater to eco-friendly exploration.

EV “storytelling cars” in San Francisco

  • Book now: Gocar Tours; hourly rental rates start from $129 (for up to two passengers)

San Francisco’s GoCar Tours’ compact, yellow Gocar EV Sport vehicles offer a futuristic take on a three-wheeled motorcycle. Rentable from the Fisherman’s Wharf area since 2019, the tandem two-seater “storytelling cars” are geared toward independent, self-paced city exploration, thanks to built-in GPS-guided tours with perky audio commentary. Made by Oregon-based EV manufacturer Arcimoto, they can reach freeway-ready speeds of up to 75 mph and are ready to bring you across the Golden Gate Bridge—and beyond. Note that while you can take the vehicles anywhere in the city, the audio is only available on 11 designated tour routes. (Tip: Gocar’s Arcimoto tours are now available in Las Vegas and San Diego.)

Horseless e-carriages in Philadelphia

Granted, horse-drawn carriages were never motorized, but that didn’t necessarily make them sustainable: The controversial industry has long drawn the ire of animal rights groups for perceived animal cruelty. Philadelphia—a city where horse-drawn carriages had once been a mainstay of the visitor experience (though the last of the industry’s stables shuttered in 2023)—has become a testing ground for a 21st-century alternative: e-carriages. Philadelphia-based animal advocacy group Carriage Horse Freedom rolled out its first carriage, dubbed “Caroline,” in 2023, as a more ethical alternative to horse-drawn models (“all of the charm, none of the harm,” as its website states).

The elegant e-carriage, which swaps out horsepower for battery power, has since become a star of the city’s parades and events, with plans for scheduled public tours slated for a spring launch—in coordination with the city’s American Vegan Center and themed on the history of vegetarianism and veganism in Philadelphia. (More general sightseeing tours of the Old City, pending city permitting approvals, are expected to start this summer.)

Boat full of people in blue ponchos beside a waterfall

Maid of the Mist has been a Niagara Falls experience for more than a century.

Photo Courtesy of Maid of the Mist

Electric tour boats in Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist tour boats have been an iconic part of the Niagara Falls experience since 1846, zipping poncho-clad visitors for wow-factor views of the thundering falls in the spray-misted Niagara Gorge. And while the boats’ appeal has proven timeless, their technology, which is the first of its kind in the U.S., is cutting edge: In 2020, the company’s two diesel vessels were replaced with twin battery-powered, all-electric catamarans.

Travelers on the 600-passenger, double-decker boats, which depart from New York’s Niagara Falls State Park, can expect a smooth, silent, and sustainable 25-minute ride, while the energy used to power the boats is generated, fittingly, by falls-sourced hydroelectric power.

E-Carts in Washington, D.C.

  • Book now: Private DC Cart Tour; rental rates start from $445 for two-hour minimum (for up to five passengers)

D.C.’s National Mall—packed with dozens of memorials, monuments, and museums—spans more than a thousand acres and stretches two miles from end to end. Figuring out how to put a dent in it can be daunting (particularly with younger or older legs in tow)—enter WeVenture’s fleet of signature-red electric cart tours.

Choose from an open-air roadster-styled model with a retractable roof or a glass-enclosed version for all-weather exploration. The breezy private tours include a driver/guide who can zip you about to a gaggle of photo-ready stops with expert commentary, including the White House; U.S. Capitol; Lincoln, FDR, and MLK memorials; Washington Monument; and more (plus a few chances to hop off on foot to explore).

People sitting in a boat on a city river

The Chicago Electric Boat Company’s “hot tub boats” are a relaxing way to explore the city in the off-season.

Courtesy of Chicago Electric Boat Company

Electric hot tub boats in Chicago

The Chicago Electric Boat Company prides itself in sustainability on the Chicago River, offering a fun twist on its all-electric, zero-emissions fleet with the launch of its “hot tub boats” in 2023. The soak-ready, slow-moving sailings (which don’t reach speeds greater than one mile per hour) launch out of the docks at Marina City and are primed for eyeing the Chicago cityscape.

Book the bobbing blue, circular vessels for 90-minute outings with up to six passengers; they can be captained by any licensed driver 21 or older. Plus, they come with all the extras you could need: coolers, floating cup holders, nifty underwater lights, and waterproof Bluetooth speakers. Bonus: The boats are BYOB (for all but the driver, naturally)—with the important caveat that there aren’t any bathrooms onboard. And note they’re only available from November through March, given the crowds on the waterway in-season.

Elissa Garay, modern-day explorer, perpetual seeker, and diligent travel scribe, has traveled to and reported on nearly 60 countries around the globe.
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