From our bird's-eye view of the renewable energy industry, we often see positive developments for humanity before they become common knowledge. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the clean energy innovations and sustainability actions that are legitimate cause for optimism despite the very real threats to people and the environment posed by climate damage.
by ReVision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe
Silently we glide out of the marina into Portland Harbor, unable to tell whether the 100 horsepower electric motor is actually running because it’s so quiet and there are no exhaust fumes befouling the air and water.
This is the maiden voyage of the “Sea Lightning,” a 19-foot fiberglass boat that has been retrofitted with a powerful, zero-emission outboard manufactured by Flux Marine, and a modular 60 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery that can power a full day of cruising at low throttle, but can also push the boat over 25 mph.
In a former life, the Sea Lightning had an obnoxiously loud Yamaha 115 horsepower two-stroke engine that guzzled large quantities of gasoline while belching blue smoke into the water and air, and ultimately into the lungs of unhappy passengers. I bought the Maycraft-built boat during the pandemic as a way to safely get outdoors with my family but quickly decided that the noise and pollution needed to go away.
These three outboards have been running for fifteen minutes at low speed. At left is a two-stroke gas engine, the middle is an electric outboard, and at right is a four-stroke gas engine, illustrating how combustion engines pollute both the water and air because their exhaust gets injected into the water and then bubbles to the surface to become air pollution.
A chance encounter with a Maine-based investor in Flux Marine alerted me to the existence of this rapidly growing electric outboard startup based in Rhode Island.
“We’re trying to decarbonize the boating realm,” said Ben Sorkin, Flux Marine Co-founder & President. “With the world on fire from our over-reliance on fossil fuels, and people really not liking the noise and pollution from traditional power boats, we think the timing is right for reliable electric outboard motors that are clean, quiet and really fun to drive.”
Traditional two-stroke outboard motors can emit 30% of their unburned gas into the water, endangering ecosystems and creating large amounts of pollution. Gas-powered motors also produce ground-level ozone, which is harmful to humans and animals alike.
The Sea Lightning charging in South Portland. Charging up the battery pack that powers Flux’s electric outboard is as simple as plugging in your phone, computer, or electric car. The charge connector can be plugged into a 120V or 240V power supply, which is readily available dockside at most marinas (not yet available for boats that tie up to moorings).
Charging time ranges from 1 hour to 10 hours depending on how low the battery is and how long you want to go boating. Stepping up to a 240V power supply cuts the charging time in half. Charging the Sea Lightning’s battery with electricity from the grid cuts carbon pollution by roughly 50% compared to burning gasoline to power the boat.
The long-term goal is to use solar electricity to charge the boat’s battery which would cut carbon emissions down to zero. The good news is that solar-powered charging options are already being designed by companies like Portugal-based Faroboat, whose Powerdock can charge the Faro5 electric boat in about two hours in full sunshine. For boat owners who don’t have shore power, the Powerdock can be a convenient option.
Phil Coupe plugs in to charge at the Aspasia Marina, where every slip has its own 120V power supply.Quietly gliding across Casco Bay without the noise and pollution from an internal combustion engine is rational cause for optimism that we can simultaneously decarbonize the marine environment while vastly increasing one’s boating enjoyment level. Email me at email@example.com if you’d like to take a spin aboard the Sea Lightning to see for yourself!