Electric Cars and Boats

Nissan Leaf, 2011

My son Kieran asked me today, “Dad, what is the longest-living animal?” We both thought for a while, and arrived at the conclusion that it must be a turtle (it’s up there, at 255 years, but certain coral can live for thousands of years). Why? “Because they use the least amount of energy, and they move slow” – he said. There must be some kind of universal law at play there. Things that move slow go further. That is the case I am learning with electrics. The range on our electric boat, based on the Humber Foton, is at 1.5 knots ca. 165.0 nautical miles or  110:00 hours of run time. That is pretty amazing, but 1.5 knots is not. Walking speed is on average 4 knots! Turtle power!

John of Humber Boats with his Foton Jon Boat

At half throttle, or 2.6 knots, we would get 43 nautical miles or 16.30 hours of run time. That’s pretty slow, but it’s the same as walking speed at least. What is more likely is that we will run the engine at full throttle most of the time, and that gives us 5-6.5 knots (just over 10km/hr – a stately speed for a boat), 10 to 13 nm of range or 2 hours. Not great, but not terrible either. Sure, we could drop a noisy gas engine on there and blast around all day – but that is not what we are all about. We’re trying to find ways that we can live in a post-carbon age. And the point I am trying to drive home, albeit slowly, is that we really might need to consider slowing the pace down a notch.

We also plan to purchase a Nissan Leaf as our flagship company vehicle. We test drove the Leaf, and we loved its pep, pickup, decent range (for a pure EV), and have seen that Hydro Québec estimates that it will cost us $0.01 CAD per km to operate. That’s $10 every 1000 km – which is about 10x better than my current biodiesel-powered VW TDI! The Tesla S model proved to be too expensive for us, and too long a wait, but for the production model we could afford, the range was not significantly better than the Leaf – and what I mean to say by that is that it is still not capablke of inter-city travel, so we won’t be losing our second car just yet. The Tesla S production (non-signature model) cars destined for the Canadian market are still well over $60k after rebates, and we would need to wait until 2013. Next Summer, we plan to have our Leaf, for well under $40k post-subsidy. AND 50% of our two charging stations will be covered as well by Hydro Québec grants. The Leaf literature has a similar range breakdown – speed kills: batteries that is.

The EPA rating on the leaf is as follows:

  • 60km/hr (cruising) = 222km
  • 90km/hr (cruising) = 160km
Of course we will verify this with our own experience on our 90km/hr hwy 148, but we have a 115km drive to do pretty regularly, and so this may require us to slow down, wear down jackets, or suffer a little Summer heat to reach our destination. Maybe the turtle technology will be the only one to emerge from the next 50 years of sustainable tech innovation, slow and steady wins the race!




One Response to “Electric Cars and Boats”

  1. Andyro says:

    Slow and steady discovery #2: Centrifugal well pumps don’t work well with solar because of the velocity and power requirements, but we have learned of a different type of pump that works very well for solar, and can pump against 950′ of vertical! Learn more here: http://dankoff-pumps.com/dp/?page_id=344

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