Boat Companies Turn to Electric Boats as an Eco-Friendly Alternative
The Amazon is burning at an unprecedented rate and it took the media over two weeks to begin covering the story. While environmental policy has been a hot topic for decades now, it’s only began to heat up over the last ten years, each year getting more and more emphasis pushed by dramatic changes in the climate and ultimately to the planet. Of course, there are many facets to the environment and thousands of ways in which human influence on it can be both positive and negative. From carbon emissions to oil spills, we’ve borne witness to some of the greatest natural disasters in history and now the world is scrambling to help and to some effect.
When the news hit that the Amazon was burning as the result of multiple fires at an unprecedented rate, the team at Boatsetter, the world’s largest marketplace for online boat rentals, began to look at ways boating was impacting the environment. Of course, there’s still no official reason for how the fire was started, whether by, “Dry weather, wind, and heat,” as Brazil’s environmental minister Richard Salles claimed or whether they were, “Human-induced,” as CNN claimed. Either way, the company wanted to take a closer look at how the environment is in danger and what they could do as an environmentally conscious business to do to prevent it from getting worse.
Of course, the same goes for Hurricane Dorian which just ravaged the Bahamas, becoming the largest environmental disaster and strongest hurricane ever to reach the islands. Because, after all, global warming also has an influence on hurricane activity and according to a report conducted by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GDFL), can result in everything from sea rise level to the intensity of tropical cyclones. With the “lungs of the earth” burning and much of the Bahamas underwater, there’s never been a better time to step back and take another look at what is going on in the environment and what we can do to change it.
While much of the emphasis has been put on the release of carbon emissions from cars, we must of course, also consider other modes of transportation and recreation. With 280,000 boats sold in 2018 in the U.S. alone, we decided to have a look at how recreational boating is impacting the environment and what the team at Boatsetter is doing to mitigate this impact.
For starters, the boat rental company was one of the first companies to start renting out electric boats online. Today, Boatsetter has approximately 200 electric boats for rent on its website with the most populous areas being Washington D.C., Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Customers renting out the electric boats have cited the lack of noise and lower rental costs (no gas expenses) as some of the main benefits in addition to environmental safety. Of course, these boats get rented out consistently, and whereas a boat renter may not have had an option for an electrical boat rental in the past, now they do.
Electric boats, much like electric cars, run entirely on electricity and do not use fuel such as gasoline or diesel which is extremely important considering the fact that these spills no matter how small or large have the ability of insulating fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird’s feathers. This exposure makes these creatures vulnerable to harsh elements. Without this, their natural ability to repel water and insulate from the cold, birds and mammals can die from hypothermia. And of course, if these contaminants are ingested, they can also lead to death.
In fact, gasoline and diesel spills spread even faster than oil spills. According to Josh Thompson, an electric boat owner with Boatsetter,
“The marine environment is of course very sensitive to spills of oil and fuel. I believe the main factor of an electric boat that lessens the impact on the environment is that there is never any transfer of harmful fluids that can spill into the water. This also means that there is no fuel or gas on board in the event a boat leaks or submerges.”
In short, the more electric boats there are on the water, the lower the chances of oil spills and ultimately harm to aquatic life will be. The best part about having an electrical engine power your boat aside from the fact that it will reduce the impact on the environment is that you’ll no longer have to pay for gas or diesel to power your boat, which is one of the largest annual expenses for boat owners and boat renters worldwide. In fact, according to Boatsetter, the average renter pays an additional 15% of their boat rental cost to compensate for fueling the boat. It’s also important to consider that boats with gas or diesel engines can be converted into boats with electric engines. In other words, there’s no need to sell your current boat and trade it in for a new X Shore Eelex 8000, considered to be the Tesla of boats, which before customization can bring a price tag of nearly $300,000 USD. Additionally, the market cap for electric boats is positioned to grow from 106M in 2017 to 327M by the end of 2028.
Of course, the life cycle approach, when determining a boat’s impact on the environment is calculated all the way from the design of the boat to the disposal of the boat. When designing their electric boats, the Swedish boat manufacturer X Shore, discovered something very interesting. Their research showed that, “Electric boats have a more difficult energy problem than electric cars due to the density of water versus density of air.” In fact, water is 784 times denser than air and takes a lot more energy than rolling a car along a flat road. It’s pretty much equivalent to continuously driving your car up a 45-degree hill.
In order to mitigate this, the company has to, “Develop a more efficient hull, drivetrain, and then pack enough batteries to make sure it would have a decent range.”
As Adriana Cascarano, another electric boat owner with Boatsetter acknowledged,
“The deciding factor for me in owning an electric boat was the simplicity behind electric systems. Electric systems are vastly easier to maintain and service because there is no transmission, oil tank, catalytic converter, etc. This means less potential for break down and less in overall cost. In addition to this I can charge up at any charging station saving me the time and hassle associated with refueling with gas.”
In addition to their emphasis on using electric boats, Boatsetter was one of the first major companies to step in and develop a strategy for helping the victims from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Using their network of thousands of boat owners and boat renters across the world, the company used their social media marketing and email marketing efforts to help raise funds for Global Giving’s Hurricane Dorian Relief fund, which with the help of Boatsetter, has now raised nearly 2.1M of its 3M goal from over 10,000 donors. According to the non-profit, Global Giving’s donation page all donations will, “Support recovery and relief efforts needed after Hurricane Dorian.”