First Electric & Hybrid Boat Conference Held In Nice, France
This weekend saw an event over 100 years in the making. Like electric cars, electric boats seemed to all but disappear at the start of the 20th century. The first electric boats debuted in the late 1800s but were soon replaced by internal combustion engines. But now, with the thrust of French Association of Electric Boats (AFBE) and over 50 presenters, these noiseless vessels of the ocean may be making their return.
Aptly-named Plugboat 2013 drew 70 delegates from 14 countries to hear presentations about the state of the electric and hybrid boat industry today. The conference, which brought together industry, R&D, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was sponsored by Torqueedo and lead by Belgium-based company Electri-City. Topics at the conference ranged from safety reports from existing electric ferries in use to discussions about hybrid engine efficiency.
I emailed a few questions to Plugboat representative Kevin Desmond who kindly replied with the following:
SD: How likely is it that the powerboat market will switch over from a fossil fuel power source to an electric power source?
KD: It depends on the political attitude concerning a sustainable planet, one which is rapidly changing due to global weather extremes. Given the significant output of the automobile manufacturers and the steady and unprecedented rise in electric car sales, the worldwide electric boat fleet will continue to grow to a point where there will eventually be more electronic boats than [internal combustion engine] boats. Given the difficulty in recycling four decades of glass-fibre hulls, retro-fitting will play a big part in this.
SD: Do you think a hybrid (solar/wind & diesel) boat is more feasible than purely electric?
KD: This is becoming the case, although with continually improving battery technology, pure electric remains feasible for short trips in calm waters. Sailboat auxiliary engines are one example.
SD: What will the challenges be to changing the market over to either hybrid or electric?
KD: Convincing owners and operators that there is no need for range anxiety. With their silence, non-polluting electronic boats are more calming, even therapeutical, in a world where stress is a serious threat.
SD: Is there one particular foreign market that appears to be going electric/hybrid over another?
KD: Although the USA has several electronic boatbuilders such as Duffy on the West Coast, the hub of e-boat development is northwest Europe fanning out eastwards and northwards from the Netherlands, France and the UK