Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Growth of Electric Water Craft

Electric boats have been around for more than a century however, they are experiencing a resurgence. This is due largely to the growing interest in electric cars that has driven down the price of lithium-ion batteries. Electric boats are very attractive as they boast zero emissions, less maintenance, low operating costs, and noiseless travel akin to sailing.

The environmental importance of electric boats cannot be overstated. While we often hear about the emissions load from fossil fuel power cars we rarely hear about the considerable emissions associated with water craft.

There are 12.5 million fossil fuel powered marine engines in the United States alone and these vessels have a massive environmental footprint. According to the EPA they are one of the leading sources of climate change causing non-road hydrocarbon emissions. Personal water craft in the US generate a staggering 80,000,000,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

According to a report by IDtechEx titled, Electric Boats, Small Submarines and other Autonomous Underwater Vehicles 2014 - 2024, the market for these types of water crafts is exploding. As of 2013 the market was worth $2.6 billion and it is expected to almost triple by 2024 and reach $7.3 billion.

One example of a company that is focusing on electric marine power-trains is Elco Motor Yachts. They have been around for more than a century and they now have a number of electric inboard engines including the EP-7000 electric marine motor and the larger EP-10000 which can power boats up to 50 feet long. Elco electric motors also makes the small inexpensive EP-600 and an even smaller outboard electric motor called the EP-5 that costs just under $3000.

Other boats have opted for hybrid designs. One such boat is the Savannah hybrid Mega-yacht. It has three generators and a massive lithium-ion battery pack that is supported by a diesel engine. This vehicle provides all the propulsion of a typical yacht but with radically enhanced fuel efficiency. The Savannah boasts 30 percent greater fuel efficiency than traditional yachts of the same size.

It is not only high-end yachts that are getting an electric facelift, popular pontoon boats are also increasingly being powered by electricity instead of an internal combustion engine.

Given the environmental and climate costs associated with marine recreation vehicles, the electrification of these vessels is both urgent and timely.

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