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Everything Old is New Again!

Peter Allen’s song from “All That Jazz” in 1979 makes us think of all the things we discarded from an earlier time and how they resurface and are seen as useful again. Going back to the 1800s, the world’s first fleet of electric launches for hire was established on the River Thames in England by Moritz Immisch and William Keppel. In the US when bids were requested in a small ad in Rudder, Sail and Paddle (later known as Rudder Magazine) to supply 50 34’ boats in 1892, several boat builders responded, among them the Elco company. Only incorporated a month after bids were requested, the new company won the contract over three competitors to supply 50 36’ launches for the Chicago World’s Fair. The boats were built on time and in the six months the Fair was open, transported 1,026,346 passengers safely and established Elco’s reputation for quality workmanship. At the time in the late 1800s that these English and American electric powered launches were in use, they served their purpose and enjoyed a long period of acceptance and popularity. The Elco Company changed its name several times but kept on building quality boats – cabin cruisers and military vessels. Today Elco still sells electric motors. For a 36’ sailboat, the company compares online how long the sailboat can go on 50 gallons of fuel with their electric hybrid engine (221 hours) to a typical diesel engine (76 hours), how far it could go on the electric engine (1108 miles) to the diesel (382 miles) and the cost per nautical mile for the electric engine (7 cents) to the diesel (59 cents). Early electric cars had a range of about 100 miles on a single charge when driven no more than 20 miles an hour. Later models boosted the range to 200 miles and in 2007 Tesla’s Roadster went 311 miles on a single charge at highway speeds. Today Jaguar Land Rover’s new vehicles will all be partially electrified by 2020. Mercedes-Benz plans to set up production of electric SUVs and a separate factory to produce batteries in Alabama. The batteries BMW developed for its compact electric vehicle are also being supplied by BMW to Torqeedo, the German boat company, and provide up to 160 HP for motorboats. Why did they stop building electric cars and boats in the 1920s and 1930s? Like the electric cars, the electric boats had a low top speed, a short range and depended on the availability of charging stations. The combustion engine gave drivers of cars and boats greater speed, a longer distance between refueling stops and no time spent recharging batteries. Mass production brought the cost of gas powered cars down to $650 in 1912, while an electric car cost $1750. When the need to hand crank to start gas powered cars was eliminated by the invention of the electric starter, the end for the electric cars was in sight. Now that we’re looking at the effect on the environment of using our combustion engines, we’re seeing the need to use electric or hybrid power on the road and in the water. As China, the UK and France have moved toward banning internal combustion engines to cut the CO2 emissions, newer battery technology will offer a solution. Boats of every description have been developed, from the fun toy jet skis to good size cabin cruisers, that use electric or hybrid technology. The company that builds the industry’s first electric jet ski calls it the Gratis X1. It’s a stand-up PWC sold by the Free Form Factory. Made in California, the Gratis X1’s components are 100% recyclable. It will go 45 minutes on its standard power and an additional hour with a 3.3kw power pack. It does about 46 miles an hour and costs $17,990. The Gratis X1 can be charged in three to four hours by a standard electrical outlet. At the University of Western Australia under the direction of Prof. Thomas Braune, his stu


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