No engine noise…no fuel slicks or emissions — would an electric boat be suitable for your business?  Newer battery banks and hybrid options make it ideal for several uses.

 “We’re more focused on low speed vessels that know where they are going every day and pretty much have the same routine.  Some of the uses would be harbor port operations, work boats, tourism, recreation or rentals. And then, of course, fishing, especially mariculture. Why wouldn’t you want to go harvest your product without an oil free sheen on the water? It only makes sense to have good clean water when you’re pulling in your kelp, or getting your oysters or  whatever you do. And trollers plugging along at two to three knots. That’s an ideal application for electric motors and batteries.”

Bob Varness of Juneau runs Tongass Rain Electric Cruise LLC and has been doing gas to all-electric or hybrid boat conversions since 2014. Now he has partnered with builders and suppliers to bring more vessels to Alaskans.

“And now we’re pursuing and identifying ideal areas of operation. And then introducing electric boat alternatives to  operators and administrators and providing them with information and education. And then as we move on, we’ll commence with design and identify the description of operation, the budget, the performance to a supplier and the   options. And at that point, the client, whether it be a fisherman or a tour operator or harbor administrator can get a good idea if an electric vessel will work for them.”

It’s newer and smaller, high energy lithium ion batteries that make it all possible. Studies show they can reduce vessel operating expenses by 75%, including up to 40% savings on fuel.

Electric boats also are ‘submarine silent,’ Varness says. That could remove the boat sound signatures that attract whales to longline hooks loaded with black cod.

 “You know, between an electric motor and some nice black cod traps, the whales wouldn’t even know you were coming.”

Seafood Auction

There is one hybrid diesel electric fishing boat in Alaska – the Sunbeam owned by Fabian Grutter of Sitka. He says he can gillnet for 12 hours on one charge.

Washington State also is converting its three largest ferries to hybrid drives to reduce greenhouse gas outputs, and there are over 100 battery-operated ferries so far worldwide.

Varness and his team aim to bring the earth-friendly option to more Alaska mariners.

“I know it can be confusing and people may not know where to go. And that’s our purpose – to help and facilitate with those transitions. And we’re always open to answering questions and a little further into the conversation, if you want us to go ahead and work for you we can put together a nice electric vessel for you based on your description of operation and your budget and deliver it to you.”