Going electric on the water

Almost all rowing clubs use some form of safety boat or coach boat, almost always propelled by a gas-powered motor.

Rowing BC is now working on a pilot project looking at the potential of rechargeable electric motors for safety boats. They have applied to Clean BC for funding and hope to set up six clubs with three different kinds of eoutboards. 

Rechargeable outboards, versus gas models, are a way for clubs and regattas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Brenda Taylor, who is organizing the pilot project, says the eoutboard technology is changing quickly, and becoming more affordable and more user-friendly, because of the demand from customers, including rowing and sailing clubs. 

Rowing BC has applied for a grant through the Clean BC Commercial Vehicle Pilots project to pilot the use of electric outboards. The CVP program  is designed to accelerate the adoption of commercial ZEVs (eg medium and heavy duty, on road, offroad, rail, marine etc)

This all started because Brenda was enquiring about rebates/subsidies for eoutboards (as there are for ZEVs). Clean BC said they aren’t currrently offering rebates for eoutboards, recognize that is a gap, but need more data to support the case for rebates, so encouraged her to apply for the CVP grant.
To accelerate the adoption of electric outboards by:
1) demonstrating the business case,
2) providing clubs with objective, relevant and easily-accessible information on cost, performance, user-experience and other benefits with which to make informed purchasing decisions, and
3) to increase awareness of the benefits and feasibility of  eoutboards and to provide the “electric curious” with first-hand experience with them, in a real-world setting .
One of the goals is to provide the “electric curious” with first hand experience with electric outboards, in a real-world setting .
Project details:
Pilot the use of 6 eoutboards in 4-6 pilot clubs in BC for a full year. We will test 3 types (Elco EP20, Torqeedo Cruise 10 and Pure Watercraft)- all roughly equivalent to 15-25hp gas outboards and each will have 2 batteries. They will be tested on 3-4 different types of launches (Carolina Skiff, inflatable, tin, catamaran).. Pilot clubs were selected to provide a range of use scenarios (crew speeds,launch type,  type of program -eg Learn to row, competitive etc), water body (lake, river, sea), and to maximize the number of people who would be exposed to the outboard or get a chance to use it.  Pilot clubs have been selected but not yet confirmed.
Data to be collected on eoutboard and gas outboard with similar use (at each club): performance, user experience, fuel consumption, GHG and air pollution emissions (calculated from fuel consumption), operating costs, downtime (due to maintenance etc), noise.
Brenda says they will also be running demo days to give others a chance to try them out and they will be used in both training and for regattas.
As part of preparing the grant application, she says it became clear that few clubs keep accurate records of fuel consumption, hours of engine use, maintenance costs. This project will fill this gap as well as providing information on eoutboards.
The plan is to create a resource/toolkit to help clubs decide whether to “go eletcric”, what factors to consider when choosing an eoutboard, including the number of batteries, charging infrastructure and other practical tips..
Brenda Taylor says the industry is exploding and there are now LOTS of eoutboard options out there, though many are not yet readily available. Torqeedo and Elco have both been around for awhile and are available. PWC is new, but were designed with rowing in mind (at least in part). They have a number of rowers working for them and have tested prototypes at different rowing clubs (they are based  out of Seattle).
Brenda says static umpiring is another way that regatta organizers could consider as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their events.