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See the latest in green boat technology at The Center for Wooden Boats Electric Boat Showcase, Sunday September 23rd

September 10, 2012


imageThere’s a lot of excitement building for The Center for Wooden Boats’ first exhibition in Seattle of electric-powered boats and other low impact electric technologies for boaters.   It happens during a special, volunteer led, on the docks event Sunday September 23rd from 11am to 5pm.

If you’ve wanted to learn more about the latest advances in e-boat technology, this is the place. At the event, people will see boats large and small that are powered by electricity.   Electric Boat Day @ the Center for Wooden Boats is being put on by CWB volunteers, and coincides with National Plug-In Day, a joint effort of Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association to draw attention to the benefits of plug-in electric vehicles. 

More information can be found on the CWB Website.

Electrical Boats are not really so new

Electric boats and cars were very popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They were actually dominant until the electric starter and other advances in internal combustion engine technology and mass production of cheaper gasoline engines led to a decline in the use of electric drive vehicles.

The electric motor was an easier invention than the electric light bulb. Therefore, in the gas light era, you had electric cars on the same streets that were lighted by gaslights.

The Center for Wooden Boats fantail launch Dora is a replica of an 1893 electric lake launch and the technology is not in fact very different than the original.

Advanced speed controllers.

In the older systems, some very complex devices were invented to allow the driver to vary the speed. In many cases these devices produced massive amounts of heat and wasted energy.

Luckily, even though electric vehicle development was largely dormant after the gas light era, demand for speed controllers in industrial applications grew (forklifts, pallet jacks etc.), resulting in the development of today’s very efficient solid-state controllers. Dora and our restored e-powered Poulsbo boat, the Terry Petus,  use modern controllers.

LUWBF (1 of 100)

Considering “fuels” brings us to refueling.

In electric boats, refueling means Charging Systems. Again, development has been slow until fairly recently. With an older system, one had a device that changed AC house current into the appropriate voltage of Direct Current (DC), connected that to the batteries, and monitored the result so the batteries didn’t overcharge or overheat.

Again, solid-state to the rescue. Modern battery chargers not only monitor the state of the batteries, they also moderate the rate of charge so the batteries are always receiving just what they need to reach full charge as efficiently as possible.


However, we are still limited in how fast we can “refuel.” In the case of Dora, cruising we’ll use electricity at the rate of about 25 to 35 amps per hour, but we can only charge at 20 amps per hour, maximum.

The next big challenge or development for electric vehicles will probably be a combination of more rapid charging systems and of batteries that will accept recharging at a higher rate.

Power from the start

An advantage for electric powered boats is that electric motors produce nearly all of their potential power immediately—from near zero revolutions per minute (RPMs). Your car motor has what is called a “power-curve.” That means that as the speed of the motor increases it produces more power. That makes sense only because we are used to it. With an electric motor all the power is there at the start. Never try to drag race a Prius from a stop light. In one yacht application the builders replaced 56 horsepower diesels with 20 horsepower of electric drives.

Water skiing behind a 47 knot electric boat!

Electric Power is Measurable

Another major advance in electric powered boats is information. We now have very sophisticated meters, monitoring systems, and management systems that either tell us how much “fuel” we have used or have left, or actually manage it for us to provide the most efficient use possible.

Electric Power Inboard and Outboard

In addition to the inboard electric motors such as Dora and Poulsbo have, you will also see electric outboards in the CWB Electric Boat Showcase. The 1930’s racing boat replica, Gemini, has auxiliary power provided by a Torqeedo electric outboard mounted on the stern and featuring a control unit that provides full information about range and battery condition.


Other outboards on display will actually be converted from gasoline motors. The lower unit of an old gas outboard is used and an electric motor is mounted to create a very useful power package.

Links to history of EVs – History

For current news of EVs

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 11, 2012 3:50 pm

    In the future, we will develop some propulsion method for boats that works on human or wind power.

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