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Creating a Carbon Neutral Operation

At Whistler Sailing, we are deeply concerned about the environment and ecosystem of Alta Lake. With summer demand of the lakes higher than ever, our fragile environment could be at risk. Whistler Sailing is committed to ensuring the sustainability of our lake, and has initiated the Preserving Alta Lake Project. This project is dedicated to making Whistler Sailing the first carbon neutral sailing school in Canada by converting all coach boat gasoline engines to electric motors.

Through fundraising, generous grants from the Whistler Blackcomb Environmental Fund and the support of a silent donor who cares deeply about the subject, Whistler Sailing has converted two motors to electric engines. While the technology is still in testing, WSA sees a future of an electrified coach boat fleet.

On June 2, 2021, General Manager Francois Hebert and Commodore Patrick McCurdy made a presentation to Council regarding the electrification of Alta Lake. You can review the presentation here

Preserving Alta Lake Project

How the project benefits the natural environment:

The replacement of our gasoline engine with electric ones will provide a number of environmental benefits, many of which will be directly tangible by lake users. These benefits can be categorized into three groups, each of which is elaborated on below: Reduced noise pollution, reduced risk of water contamination, and reduced fossil fuel use. 

Electric outboard motors are significantly quieter than gasoline outboard motors. During the summer months we use all of our coach boats in normal operation, each being used for roughly 5 hours a day. Thus, these gasoline engines represent a significant form of noise pollution on Alta Lake. Though the din of public parks on the lake provide the largest source of noise pollution, once lake users are out of the crowded parks our motors are a significant source of noise pollution.  This noise pollution comes in two forms, above water and below water. Above waterline noise pollution detracts from the beauty of the natural environment for park users, boaters, and residents alike. Above waterline noise pollution also represents a possible deterrent for wildlife which could impact riparian interactions. Below water noise pollution has been shown on countless other water bodies to affect fish spawning, feeding, and behaviour. Below waterline noise pollution would be difficult to quantify on Alta lake, requiring significant scientific investigation. This being said, staff and participants at WSA regularly note the large number of fish that use our docks for cover and protection, especially small minnows and smolt. 

 

WSA is an ideal use case for electric boats motors for a number of reasons. Firstly, our program structure means that each boat returns to the same dock each evening, ready for charging. Unlike automotive engines Gasoline outboard motors are designed to run at maximum RPM. Due to the 12.5 km/h (7knts) speed limit on Alta Lake, WSA rarely uses our gasoline outboards at their designed RPM. This reduces efficiency and increases engine wear. Alternately, Electric motors are most efficient at lower RPM and run smoothly at all speeds. This, combined with the small size of the lake, means that, excluding price, the current limitations of electric motors are negligible in our operations.

 

Though previous electric motors WSA has acquired have been made by Torqeedo and Ez Motor, WSA would like to change tack and begin using Mercury’s new line of  Avator electric outboard motors. Torqeedo is a German company and does not have a significant North American distribution and service network. This has resulted in delays in the implementation of Torqeedo motors in our fleet. This is because Torqeedo motors and batteries are overly complex, with many proprietary parts, and Torqeedo requires the motor and batteries to be sent to their service partners for any diagnostics or repair. Mercury marine, however, is one of the largest producers of boat motors in the world and has a proven track record of performance and reliability. The Mercury Avator line of electric motors comes with standard outboard mounting, steering, and throttle controls which WSA staff are already familiar with and which are easily repairable. Additionally, Mercury has a very thorough and easily accessible dealer and service network, with many service partners across the Sea to Sky and Lower Mainland . These factors lead us to believe that Mercury Avator motors will be the most effective way for WSA to scale our electrification to the whole fleet.

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2017

Barge Engine: First Test! 

WSA acquired its first Torqeedo electric engine in 2017 and installed it on the sailing association's barge as a trial to evaluate its suitability for a coach boat. The trial was successful, demonstrating that the electric engine met the necessary performance standards. This success led to the development of our carbon-neutral plan, which aims to replace all gasoline coach boat engines with electric engines.  The advantage or using the barge as a test platform was that we could use more affordable and much heavier lead Acid batteries to get the project off the ground. The heavier batteries do not work in a small inflatable boat. 

2020

Bruce Engine

Our first attempt at using an electric coach boat encountered some reliability challenges related to the lack of waterproofing of the chargers and weight distribution, ultimately leading to the setup being unsuccessful for a coach boat. However, we repurposed the additional parts and lithium battery to upgrade the barge to a lithium-ion battery system. This upgrade significantly improved the barge's range and longevity. Lithium-ion batteries can withstand over 3,000 charging cycles, providing WSA with a lifespan of 15+ years of operation.

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2023

Hank EZ Motor 

WSA purchased an EZ motor for our coach boat, Hank, which operated successfully for 7 out of our 10-week camp season. A manufacturing defect caused an issue, but EZ Motor provided a replacement lower unit free of charge. The motor is back in operation for the 2024 season.
 

The coaches loved its ease of use, maneuverability, quietness, and torque, making Hank one of our most popular coach boats.
 

Hank is a new addition to our fleet, we selected this vessel with electrification in mind. The weight of the battery box and charger requires a slightly larger vessel. Hank is a 3.8m (12.5ft) foldable boat with an aluminum floor, very lightweight for its size, and has a flatter bottom for good handling with minimal wake at the 12km/h speed limit on Alta Lake. It also has a significant weight capacity of 725kg (1598lbs), which is helpful for carrying the battery weight.
 

Check out a short video of Hank in action

2020

The future: Mercury Avator

Mercury marine  is one of the largest producers of boat motors in the world and has a proven track record of performance and reliability. The Mercury Avator line of electric motors comes with standard outboard mounting, steering, and throttle controls which WSA staff are already familiar with and which are easily repairable. Additionally, Mercury has a very thorough and easily accessible dealer and service network, with many service partners across the Sea to Sky and Lower Mainland . These
factors lead us to believe that Mercury Avator motors will be the most effective way for WSA to scale our
electrification to the whole fleet.
 

Learn more: Avator line brochure

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