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Pure Watercraft and Washington State Ferries (WSF) are part of the new wave of electrical powered boats in Seattle’s waterways. After reading about electric cars a decade ago, the founder of Pure Watercraft decided to buy an electric boat. When he had trouble with that, the intrepid entrepreneur decided to build electric pontoon boats.
Also, set on doing their part for the climate crisis, WSF plans to implement hybrid ferry boats powered by electricity and gas. The initiative will drastically improve the environmental impact of the WSF and further boost Seattle as the hub of electric boating in the U.S.
These developments are excellent news for environmentalists, but is the electronification of the U.S. waterways that important, or can we stick to gas-powered boats?
Electric vs. Gas Boats
Historically, gas boats have been popular with boat owners because they are cost-effective and easy to fix. However, electric motors have become increasingly popular as the world becomes more environmentally aware. Electric motors are a cleaner choice for any boat owner. They don’t require fuel and are significantly quieter, which also means less noise pollution.
However, electric motors come with a hefty price tag that’s not affordable for all boat owners. These boats also take a long time to be charged and have a limited range, so you must carry batteries. Overall, electrical powered boats are a better choice for the environment but not a viable option for all.
Electrification of Seattle’s Waterways
Since 2020, Washington State Ferries (WSF) has been moving toward a more eco-friendly ferry fleet. The goal is to improve reliability while lowering the fleet’s environmental footprint. WSF typically burns over 18 million gallons of diesel annually, making it the largest diesel consumer in the state.
To counteract the negative impact this has on the environment, WSF is working on various projects to have a zero-emissions fleet. The three main projects to achieve this are:
- Building new Olympic class hybrid-electric vessels.
- Converting three existing ferries to hybrid-electric vessels.
- Developing a charging infrastructure for terminals.
According to Matt von Ruden of the WSF, innovation is necessary, and the electrification program is an excellent opportunity to impact the environment positively. It can set a shining example for the rest of the country.
The Future of Electrical Powered Boats
Companies like Pure Watercraft are making waves in the electrical-powered boat world. They are building a facility in Tukwila where they will manufacture outboard motors and pontoon boats, complete with battery packs supplied by General Motors.
A city shaped by water makes the perfect location for electric boating. Pure Watercraft founder Andy Rabele plans to keep products made in the U.S. and promote Seattle’s status as the hub of electric boating.
Electrification may not be suitable for all water-faring vessels because battery technology relies on rigid schedules. However, it’s a perfect fit for boats that do regular runs that have a fixed length, like the Washington State Ferries (WSF). Since WSF is one of the largest fuel consumers of Washington’s water, it’s the ideal system for electrification.