View Full Version : Electric Water Taxis

08-15-2012, 10:42 PM
This is obviously a great idea for several reasons.

08-16-2012, 08:13 AM
Good idea, but I'm wondering why the taxpayers should foot the bill for the upgrades? Isn't this a private enterprise?

08-16-2012, 08:57 AM
I'm happy to respond to that. Simply put, there is not enough of a financial incentive/benefit for us to take on this project without assistance, so we would not pursue it unless it was beneficial enough for another partner to participate in. In this case the City, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and (it appears) the U.S. Department of Energy have all indicated that they feel there is enough environmental benefit to the public to justify the use of grant monies that are specifically designated for projects such as these.

Internal combustion engines are certainly adequate for what we do, and we have operated satisfactorily for 13 years with them, and will continue to do so if the grant is not fully approved. Over this time frame we have (privately) funded the installation and replacement of several generations of gasoline outboard engines.

During this period we have switched from 2 stroke to much cleaner and more efficient 4 stroke engines. We spare no effort or reasonable expense when it comes to keeping our operation clean and environmentally-conscious, but implementing a project like this one would provide little if any financial return to us with a massive up-front expense that frankly we would not be able to take on (or justify, from a purely business standpoint). If we were starting the boat service from scratch, this is probably the technology we would use - we did so with our recently begun boat operation at the zoo - but we currently have a serviceable solution on the canal and no compelling reason to change other than for the public environmental benefit.

Also, in addition to the equipment installed on the boats, the grant will fund installation of charging infrastructure on the canal, which would remain in place even if we were no longer contracted to provide services there. This is a direct financial benefit to Oklahoma City taxpayers thanks to a federal program.

When we first started investigating this technology this spring and decided we would like to pursue it if possible, we sought out private funding through sponsorship, and would likely continue to do so if this grant doesn't come through. However, we also made the City's Department of Parks and Recreation, the City's Office of Sustainability, and the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) aware of our test, and ACOG identified a federal grant that is set aside for these types of projects. The governmental entities are driving it at this point, because they all see public benefit.

We're very appreciative of their efforts and excited at the possibility of adding this new, high-tech, environmentally-friendly wrinkle to our operation.

08-16-2012, 09:10 AM
You could go fully eco friendly and everyone grab an oar. It would be a win/win by helping the public with fitness and exercise. j/k

Seriously though, it is hard to believe the boats have been in operation now for 13 years! Wow, great work!

08-16-2012, 10:23 AM
Thanks for the great response, Urbanized.

08-16-2012, 10:30 AM
You're welcome. Please keep your fingers crossed for us!

Bill Robertson
08-21-2012, 12:44 PM
13 years! Man, time flies.

08-21-2012, 02:12 PM
It's amazing how time flies! Just yesterday I found a few Red Hawks ticket stubs from some of the first games played at the Bricktown Ballpark.

08-24-2012, 06:41 AM
What's the life span of the motors and batteries that you are looking into and what is the current lifespan on the engines you currently use?

08-28-2012, 05:48 PM
I've hesitated to discuss this in any more detail until we cleared all of the hurdles involved and the project was fully approved by all parties. The good news is we received the final go ahead today, and product is now on order.

I'll try to find some time shortly to provide more details on the project.

08-28-2012, 05:59 PM
I've hesitated to discuss this in any more detail until we cleared all of the hurdles involved and the project was fully approved by all parties. The good news is we received the final go ahead today, and product is now on order.

I'll try to find some time shortly to provide more details on the project.

Looking forward to it :)

10-01-2012, 08:04 PM
Sorry to be so reticent on posting details as this project has gone along. The fact is, owing to the nature of the funding here, everything had to proceed in a very deliberate and proper fashion. We had to dot LOTS of "I"s and cross LOTS of "T"s along the way, and the added complicating element was that the grant expired Sept 30 and all work had to be complete by that date. Nothing like a little pressure! I'm happy to report that as of last Thursday we had installed motors on all six of our boats, AND the shore-side charging system was also installed!

After considerable process - including a demonstration project in the Spring among other things - we came to the conclusion that the only product currently available in the U.S. that worked for our purposes is a product called Torqeedo (, easily the most cutting-edge and high-tech outboard electric propulsion system on the market.

Specifically, we are utilizing their Cruise 4.0 R (remote) model. The 4.0 stands for the 4 Kw used by the motor, which has a propulsive power comparable to an 8.0 HP gasoline outboard and thrust comparable to a 9.9 HP gasoline engine. This is a perfect switchout for us, as we have previously utilized 9.9 HP gasoline engines. We actually prefer the performance of these to that of our old gasoline outboards, as these give us more immediate thrust, great for stopping and making maneuvers (important in the extreme close-quarters of the canal).

The battery system is a Lithium Ion 48v (6 individual batteries run series parallel) system that is vastly superior to lead acid or gel batteries in performance and life. For example, lead acid or gel batteries measure their charge cycles in the hundreds, while these should be good for a minimum of 5,000 charge cycles (around 15-16 YEARS for us!!). They also don't have the battery memory problems exhibited in older technology. Based on our early demonstration project and on initial data we are getting back on the installed systems we expect to easily hold enough charge each day to for an entire day's service, with an overnight charge fully replenishing them. The batteries themselves (similar to what is in your cell phone or a modern electric car) are very light by battery standards, and the entire system only added a net 250-300 pounds or so (the motors themselves only weigh 40 lbs!). The charging system is also quite innovative and high-tech, and will eliminate common problems with large battery banks, including overcharge.

We also believe that the unique construction of these motors will give us much better reliability than the gasoline outboards, much of it due to the direct-drive prop, which eliminates the massive amount of forward-to-reverse (damaging) gear changing that we do every trip. Due to the layout of the canal, we put our boats into reverse more in a week than most boats see in a lifetime. No gasoline engine is really designed to do this, and we just made do with many, many lower unit (gear case) rebuilds each season. But the new motors gears! This new configuration should happily comply with the demand, and it is almost surreal to me to think we will never again have to rebuild a greasy gear case (OK, I haven't myself worked on that many - I have assisted on a number - but they are expensive and ALWAYS result in at least some service disruption.

The motors give us lots of interesting data. They have a GPS receiver in the top end - in fact the motor itself is below the water in a sealed case, directly driving the prop - and system allows us to closely monitor speed, expected range, and battery condition at the throttle control. The motors in many way resemble the pod drives now seen on the most modern cruise ships.

These motors & batteries were engineered in Germany, and a big market for them there is for boaters on pristine alpine and other lakes that do not allow gasoline or other contaminants. Some might be surprised to learn that this has actually also always been a concern on the canal, as - despite the fact that it is a closed system - it does overflow to the watershed and there was always the potential for fuel and oil contamination. We've always worked with the City's water quality folks to avoid this, taking lots of precautions, and have been lucky for 13 years to have no significant spills of any kind, but it is a relief to not have to worry about that at all going forward. This clean aspect would also make these motors a very good solution for auxiliary power for sailboaters, for instance at Hefner, which of course is the major drinking water supplier to OKC. While we have a larger diameter prop pitched to give more reverse (stopping power), there are speed props available, and even a new 8 Kw motor on the horizon that will allow many boaters to go quite fast, all things considered.

We still have considerable cosmetic work, 12v system accessory wiring, and other items to do to get the boats into tip-top shape again, but we are happy and relieved to have finished all of the grant-eligible work and look forward to a great new CLEAN and GREEN future on the canal. None of this could have happened without fantastic cooperation from a number of people, included but not limited to: the Association of Central Oklahoma Governements (ACOG), who initially identified the grant, the U.S. Department of Energy, who gave our project speedy consideration and approval, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, who helped shepherd the entire project, the City of Oklahoma City and specifically the City's Department of Parks and Recreation, our vendors (with a special shoutout to OKC-based Industrial Battery Solutions who did most of the boat install), and our own long-suffering employees, who helped tremendously while we crammed to get this done over the past couple of weeks. Also, I personally apologize to any friends, associates or people who had business with our other operations during this period and were unable to pry away a spare moment of my attention. I'm sorry, there were no such moments.

For OKC Talkers, please feel free to come down and check the motors out for yourselves. We installed a window in the top of every motor box, mostly for the GPS, but it also makes great viewing. We're even toying with lighting the insides of the motor box to provide better viewing at night. They really are unusual and fun to check out, and our employees as of yet have not tired of showing them off.

10-02-2012, 03:40 PM
By the way, we have been told by one of our vendors and see no reason to believe otherwise that this qualifies as the largest installation to date of Lithium Ion power in commercial passenger boats anywhere in the United States. Sorry to ramble on with the technical mumbo-jumbo, but 1972ford seemed interested.

There was also considerable garbage and misinformation in the comment section of the Oklahoman's article. No real surprise there, but commentors were representing that they somehow knew what motors and batteries we were using, which was impossible as we ourselves had not yet made a formal selection much less discussed specific product with anyone else, including officials. The commentor(s) then claimed there would be short battery life, heavy batteries, cumbersome solar panels and other fictional issues which would make this project folly. I wanted to set the record straight on that, and felt it best to do here, where most of the readers are rational. Rest assured, this business is our bread and butter, and we only pursued this project after careful analysis. We have the utmost confidence in the solution chosen. It was everything we could do not to respond in that comment section and set the record straight, but we all know that would have been a waste of time, and might even have somehow jeopardized the project.

Either way, glad to have the project finished, and excited about our new electric future.

10-02-2012, 04:55 PM
That's some interesting tech. I'll have to check it out next time I'm in the area.

10-02-2012, 07:10 PM
Sounds like I need to go take a boat ride. :)