Electric boat

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While most boats on the water today are powered by diesel engines, and sail power and gasoline engines are also popular, it is perfectly feasible to power boats by electricity too. Electric boats were very popular from the 1880s[1] until the 1920s, when the internal combustion engine took dominance. Since the energy crises of the 1970s, interest in this quiet and potentially renewable marine energy source has been increasing steadily again, especially as solar cells became available, for the first time making possible motorboats with an infinite range like sailboats. The first practical solar boat was probably constructed in 1975 in England.[2]

Contents

History

Possibly the first electric boat was developed by Moritz von Jacobi in 1839 in St Petersburg, Russia - a 24-foot (7.3 m) boat which carried 14 passengers at 3 mph. But it took more than 30 years of battery and motor development before they began to be deployed in any numbers. In 1886 an electric boat crossed the English Channel both ways in 8 hours. By 1889 the first 6 electric charter boats were working on the Thames and in the 1893 Chicago World Fair 55 boats carried more than a million passengers.[3]

Electric boats had an early period of popularity between around 1890 and 1910, before the emergence of the internal combustion engine drove them out. For example, an 1893 pleasure map of the Thames shows 8 "charging stations for electric launches" between Kew (Strand-on-the-Green) and Reading (Caversham).[1] Most of these were small passenger boats on non-tidal waters at a time when the only power alternative was steam. One of the largest in Britain, and the only surviving example, is the Mary Gordon [4] which was built on the Thames for Leeds City Council for use on the Roundhay Park Lake. It was 52 feet (16 m) long and could take 75 passengers, and is now being restored.

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