Research Programs

Electric Boats

Michigan Economic Development Corporation Grant

Research at the Michigan Tech Traverse City Research Center currently involves Electric Boats in the waters in West Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan and the nearby inland lakes including Elk Lake, Torch Lake, Lake Charlevoix, and Lake Leelanau. The Elk Rapids Marina is selling electric boats from X-Shore, a Swedish company. They have three versions for sale, a 21 foot version, the X-Shore 1, a 26 foot pleasure boat, the X-Shore Eleex 8000, and a customizable a totally enclosed 26 foot version that is designed for professionals such a fishermen or taxi service.

The research is focused on the range and performance of electric boats. This is dependent upon many factors including weather conditions, how fast you are going, as well as the size of the batteries on board. If you decide you want to enjoy a calm day cruising around in slower speeds, you can go for more than 20 hours. If you want to take your friends out and show off the capacity of your new electrical, you can run at cruising speeds for about an 90 minutes. Recharging the batteries can be done at any marina using shore power.

Just as with Electric Cars, fast charging must be performed with high speed “superchargers.” Superchargers are currently installed at the Elk Rapids Marina and at the Northport Marina. Others are planned to be installed in the Traverse City Marina and Charlevoix Marina. Once all these are installed, it will make it feasible to travel around the “Fresh Coast” of Traverse City with relative ease.

Other manufacturers of Electric Boats will be identified and compared for the performance and range. For example, Hercules Electric, Novi, Michigan, has an electric powertrain they have installed in a tri-toon boat, a pontoon boat with three tubes instead of two. On the small side of the spectrum, Lilypad Labs, Holland, MI has launched a solar powered boat which runs off or 4 solar panels hooked up to two Li-Ion battery pack. Two electric motors provide ease of
control and speeds up to 6 miles per hour. Currently the Lilypad is only offered as a rental boat. The research is to identify other electric boat companies and to investigate the power requirements in the local marinas as they are adopted as an alternative to fuel-powered boats. The research is funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and managed by Next Energy in Detroit, MI.

Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) Seedling Grant

On April 3, 2023, the Electric Boats in Traverse City Projectwas funded under theGreat Lakes Research Center(GLRC) Seedling Grant program. The goal of the project was to investigate plans for the adoption of electric boats in the Traverse City area, specifically in Lake Michigan and the surrounding marinas of West Traverse Bay. Questions arise when we consider electric boats, these include:

  1. How far can I travel from my home dock?
  2. How far away is the next charging station?
  3. How long will it take to charge sufficiently to travel to my next destination or back home?
  4. What is the cost of charging?
  5. What is my backup plan if I run out of energy?
  6. What can I do at the charging ports?
  7. How much electrical power and energy needs to be built out in the harbors to meet the needs of the growing E-Boat Industry?
  8. What is the benefit to society of switching from fuel-powered boats to electric boats?