Electric boats and motors: green alternative on the water

Steven Mullie Eco Boats Australia.
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Eco-friendly boating is a great option for reducing our footprint on the water and our reliance on fossil fuels.

Last summer, many Australians enjoyed their local waterways on a power boat - without realising the impact it has on the environment.

According to government agency research, a few hours in a petrol powered boat has a bigger environmental impact than a road trip by car from Sydney to Brisbane. Petrol powered marine engines are among the highest contributors of hydrocarbons, oxides, and nitrogen emissions in the country*.

But it's possible to have fun on the water without wrecking the planet. Eco Boats Australia offers electric boats and motors that are emission-free, low-maintenance, will cruise for a whole day, and cost less than a dollar to recharge.
Steven Mullie founded Eco Boats Australia Pty Ltd in 2008 to offer a green alternative in boating. Their product range encompasses electric boats, as well as electric inboard and outboard motors complete with batteries and charger.

'The beautiful thing is that electric boats are so quiet,' he said. 'Our Duffy electric boats for instance are a lifestyle boat, perfect for relaxed day or sunset cruising on the bay, river or harbour with family, friends or business associates.'

These new boats employ the latest technology, but electric boats themselves have been around since the late 1800s. They remained popular into the 1920s, when the arrival of the internal combustion engine saw people fuelling their boats with the faster technology. That's all changing now.

Steven said the threat of global warming and rising fuel prices had generated a lot of interest in electric boats in his native Holland. 'Electric boating is getting a lot of attention from Dutch councils who've decided to clean up their act, reducing noise and pollution on their waterways. Some rivers and canals already only allow electric-powered vessels.'

'In the USA, electric boats are a hit with owners of waterfront properties and are popular with both men and women because they are so easy to operate and maintain,' he said.

Torqeedo electric outboard by Eco Boats Australia
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Electric motors are quiet, clean, reliable and economical to run. Where combustion engines have hundreds of moving parts, which can all break down, an electric motor has just one moving part - they are extremely reliable and almost maintenance free. Especially for displacement vessels such as yachts and classic boats it makes sense to convert to electric drive, as relatively little power is needed to bring a boat up to its ‘hull speed’.

A 25 kg electric motor with a diameter of less than 300mm can replace a big and noisy diesel inboard giving you a quiet ride and lots of interior space in return.

Many yachting enthusiasts favour electric propulsion as it gives the same quiet experience under power as when under sail. Electric motors have full torque at any given RPM, which makes them ideal for low speed maneuvering inside a marina.

Batteries are generally fitted close to, or below the water line to add to the stability of the boat. Recharging can be done either by plugging in to shore power or via solar panels if the boat is on a mooring. Diesel-electric (hybrid) systems for larger craft and longer range are also available.

Eco Boats Australia represents the world’s leading brands in electric boating such as Duffy electric boats from California, Mastervolt-Bellmann inboard motors from Holland and highly efficient Torqeedo outboards from Germany. People are seeing the benefits of electric propulsion and Eco Boats has supplied boats and motors to many boaties across Australia over the past years.

Eco Boats operates out of Northbridge Marina (Sydney) with two demonstrator vessels that are also available for self-drive trips for people wanting to experience quiet and clean electric propulsion themselves. Pack a picnic and glide down Sydney’s Middle Harbour in style and complete silence.

More at www.ecoboats.com.au or Tel (02) 9929 8834.

Mastervolt Bellmann electric inboard by Eco Boats Australia
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*Source: Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Water Resources: 'Comparative Assessment of the Environmental Performance of Small Engines - Marine Outboards and Personal Watercraft'

According to this research one hour of operation of a boat that complies with US 2006 emission standards (i.e. has a relatively clean engine) produces the same pollution as about fifty cars operated at a similar speed. Older style outboard engines that do not comply with US EPA 2006 limits are likely to emit around ten times the amount of pollution compared to conforming engines.