Electric ferries to give Victoria tourism a fresh jolt

Victoria will have a quiet and environmentally friendly new tourist attraction buzzing around its harbour next year when the Victoria Electric Boat Co. takes to the waves.

The Gray Line Hop-On-Hop-Off division of Wilson’s Group will add a nautical component to its tours with six fully electric boats offering a hop-on-hop-off service around the Inner Harbour and Gorge Waterway.

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“We think this will be a nice new attraction for the city and coincides really well with our double deckers and the hop-on-hop-off products,” said Wilson’s chief executive John Wilson. The Gray Line division will also bring into its fleet an electric mini-coach and an electric double decker this year.

Wilson said they have ordered six of the 26-foot electric vessels from Okanagan-based Templar Marine, and expect to have them in service by April or May of 2020.

“They are pretty cool,” said Wilson, noting the 12-person vessels are spacious, quiet, equipped with a bathroom and turn on a dime. “They have lots of power and run very smoothly. It’s also a very stable ride, so it’s great for seniors to get on and off.”

Wilson said they also intend to run evening dinner cruises and eventually expand the water fleet to 12 vessels.

That would be an investment of about $1.6 million, given the retail price of the commercially configured vessel is $138,000.

Tim Bieber, Templar’s director of sales, said the fledgling company had been banking on finding a market for their larger electric vessels.

This is Templar’s first year in business and Wilson’s is the first commercial client.

“We are very excited about launching into this market, and this potentially is the largest electric boat in North America being used for this kind of consumer-commercial mixed use,” he said. “There are other electric boat companies around but most of them are making smaller boats.”

That’s down to cost and the significant battery energy required to get an electric boat motor up to speed.

Bieber said Templar decided to lean into that, and manufacture boats that are suited for slow cruising and sightseeing rather than water-skiing or surfing. “We did a rethink and designed something that [five to seven knots] is all it’s going to do,” he said.

The zero-emission Templar Cruiser, which Gray Line will use, becomes 29 feet long when a three-foot swim platform is included. It will cruise at five knots and has a top speed of seven knots.

Bieber said its lithium-battery powered Torqeedo propulsion system has a running cost of about 10 cents an hour, and it can be operated for as many as 10 hours on a single charge.

The company offers two other 26-foot options, a $118,000 stripped-down water taxi and a high-end cruiser that can cost well over $150,000.

 

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