Yet, there was a green leaf quietly beginning to sprout in some corners of the show. Among the mighty Yamahas and Evinrudes, and the 12-cylinder Caterpillars and GMs, were some humble electric engines, solar panels, dreams of a future without carbon. I must mention, of course, that the technology in the big outboard and inboard engines has already reduced our carbon footprint significantly. Four strokes and high-tech fuel injection has resulted in far less emissions and much better fuel economy. But so far the big guys have not unveiled anything truly radical from a green point of view. I stopped by the Nissan booth where their gleaming black outboards were on display. I figured a company as forward thinking as Nissan with the introduction of the new Leaf electric car might have something up their sleeve. If they did, they weren’t going to tell me. In fact, they seemed dumbfounded that I even asked such a stupid question. An electric outboard engine? What planet are you from, Zantoor?
So the most prominent leader in electric outboards is not Nissan, not Yamaha, not Mercury, but little-known (in the U.S. anyway) German company, Torqeedo (see article in Winter 2011 issue). Their largest outboard is equal to an 8-10 horsepower engine that will plane out a skiff, all electrically. Torqeedo has also teamed up with Sea Eagle and PowerFilm Solar to create a rigid hull inflatable that will run at three-knots forever using only fuel from the sun. Less than $4,000 buys the boat, engine, batteries, Bimini top, solar panel, and they even throw in oars, even though you will probably never need them.