EV demo in Elk Rapids is the latest push to promote electric waterways
It’s a cloudy day at the Elk Rapids Marina, but a solar-powered leisure boat is working just fine.
“It’s awesome, the other boats are amazing. But they all require being plugged in," said Jim Hotary, the chief technology officer of the startup Lilypad Labs, which is based in Holland, Michigan.
The Lilypad is a rectangular boat with solar panels sticking out the front and back. It's batteries are from a Toyota Prius conversion kit, and they allow it to operate even in the dark.
It was one of several boats at a demo at the Elk Rapids marina last week, where several companies showed off their boats.
Some boats at the demo can go up to around 35 miles per hour, but the Lilypad can only go about 5 — "just enough to kind of cruise around like we're doing now and see the sights and have a conversation," Hotary said.
The state of Michigan wants to electrify its waterways and this demo was part of a new state grant program aimed at promoting electric vessels. In early August, Michigan announced over half-a-million dollars in grant funding for projects to install charging stations at marinas in northern Michigan, conduct research and develop electric vessels.
State Sen. John Damoose was among the crowd. The Harbor Springs Republican said he’s excited at the prospect of electric boats on the waterways.
“It's really fascinating," he said. "I didn't even think electric boats were possible. But now everything seems to be changing.”
While Damoose was excited about the demo, he said he’s worried about state lawmakers' broader push toward clean energy by 2035.
“Who doesn't want clean energy? But we need to be rational about our timeline, and about the technologies we use for it,” he said.