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Earth Talk – hybrid engines for boats

The boating industry is making efforts to offer a greener product.

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The EPIC23E, produced by EPIC Wakeboats of San Diego, is billed as 'the world's first electric hybrid sport boat.' It has an electric motor whose lithium-ion batteries can be recharged by an onboard gasoline-powered generator or at the dock. Base price: $72,500.

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Q: I’ve heard that hybrid engine technology is now being used to power boats. What’s happening with that?

A: With concerns about climate change and the world’s imperiled oceans and waterways at an all-time high, it makes sense that the boating industry would be looking into greener ways to try to do its part and to attract some of those increasing numbers of environmentally conscious customers.

Americans spend 500 million hours zipping around in recreational boats each year. But, until recently, the engines on these boats were held to much lower efficiency standards than their automotive counterparts. Last year the US Environmental Protection Agency announced new, more stringent emissions standards for marine engines – both in-board and outboard – that will go into effect in 2010. In fact, several hybrid boats are already on the market, boasting emission ratings well below the new standards.

The 24-foot Endeavour Green Electric Hybrid can run all day on an electric charge that costs only 11 cents and generates no emissions, kicking into a small diesel generator only if the boat’s eight batteries are depleted. And when owners can charge the batteries via solar or wind power, the boats have zero carbon footprint. Florida-based Craig Catamaran Corp. last year launched a hybrid version of its compact catamaran-style speedboat. The sporty little two-seater, which is light enough to be towed by a Mini Cooper or Smart car, can run for eight hours on less than a gallon of gas, and costs about $6,000.

For those looking for a larger, more luxurious ride, the 25-foot Frauscher hybrid might be just the ticket. The speedy $155,000 Austrian-built pleasure boat combines an electric engine with a 256 horsepower Steyr diesel motor to allow for emissions-free harbor cruising or high-octane speeding across open water.

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