A few weeks ago two local outdoorsmen were talking about one of their favorite subjects, bass fishing, and the talk steered to green energy, or green power, being pushed by so many people in this country.
The green energy advocates’ goal, buoyed by government incentives for wind and solar, is to replace “dirty energy” generated by fossil fuels, including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear. Imagine, if you will, a nation’s populace running electric vehicles to get to work and play, anywhere.
The two bass anglers laughed out loud and said, yeah, the next thing ya know they’ll be replacing gas-powered outboard motors with electric outboard motors in the future. Can you imagine that? And they laughed some more.
Well, the last laugh might be on them. The marine industry is on top of it, according to Joe Sills in a short story in the Bassmaster Classic Preview 2021 Magazine.
Seattle-based boating technology company Pure Watercraft has secured $37.5 million in financing to aid in the development of electric outboard technologies, Sills wrote. Its first product is an outboard motor system with a propulsion power equal to a 50-horsepower gas motor, according to the story.
Lithium-ion batteries that operate via a thermal management system power the motor. Pure Watercraft notes power packs for the 50-h.p equivalent have roughly the same energy amount as a Tesla Model 3 vehicle.
Sills pointed out we shouldn’t expect electric outboards to become standard technology any time soon for bass boats. The day is a long way away. Currently, a Pure Outboard System costs $16,500.
“However, if the electric vehicle market serves as a barometer, electric outboard prices may drop swiftly in the next decade. In 2008, Tesla’s debut model cost upward of $100,000. Today, a Model 3 can be had for around $35,000,” Sills wrote.
There are obstacles presenting unique challenges in the boating market. For example, weight is a concern. Consider the weight of 30 gallons of fuel and then realize the batteries needed to power an electric outboard probably will be much heavier.
Also, where will the batteries be stored? Say they take the place of a gas tank … how will the boat owner access the huge batteries if a cell goes bad or battery replacement is necessary?
Sills summed up the story and wrote, “Bass boat design will no doubt need to change before the electric age takes control of outboard power. Still, it will be an interesting process to watch.”
Boat manufacturers are and have been aware it’s coming. Gary Clous, the Bassmaster Elite angler who owns Phoenix Boats, mentioned electric outboard motors in an April 2020 column written for bassmaster.com titled “Envisioning the futuristic bass boat.”
Clous wrote, “One sure bet is that technological advancements will continue to drive the boat market. For example, I think the day will come when we will do away with gas engines and utilize power electric outboards once we see improvements in battery technology.
“The heavy lead cell batteries have been around for decades, but we’re starting to see smaller, lighter and more powerful lithium batteries showing up in some boats. However, there are still improvements needed. One example is they charge quickly but die abruptly, and there is the matter of cost.
“One would think that if we can put a submarine in the water for 20 years, surely we can figure out how to keep electric outboards running for a day and make the battery power affordable.”
It won’t be a laughing matter.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.