Electric Boat History
1838 Professor Moritz Jacobi developed a 24’ electric boat for the Czar of Russia and carried 14 passengers down the Neva river at a speed of 3 mph. Born in Potsdam, Prussia, the German physicist and University lecturer was instrumental in the development of electroplating and electrotyping.
1882 First electric boat record set in 1886 the “Volta” crosses English Channel from Dover to Calais, France in 3 hr and 55 min, a steel ship 37’ long-6’10” wide. Designed by Anthony Reckenzaun. (1850-1893) Later it made round-trip in 8 hours. He also designed the first American electric boat “the Magnet.”
1887 Isaac Peral (1851-1895) In 1888 he developed a submarine for the Spanish Navy, but it was rejected. The Peral submarine was the first practical submarine ever invented. Powered by diesel generators it had 480 batteries.
1889 Commercial Electric boats were being used on the Thames River in England. By 1893 maps were published showing “charging stations” along the river.
1892 Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition was the first large public use of Alternating energy. Developed by Westinghouse, the AC current systems were chosen over competing direct-current systems designed by Thomas Edison. Batteries were used to power electric boats and carried over a million passengers around the Fair.
1900 the United States commission’s the first modern electric submarine, the USS Holland from John Phillip Holland and his Holland Torpedo Boat company, founded in 1899. It later became General Dynamics Corp. (1952) The race for submarines was joined by nations around the world.
1902 French launch the Gymnote. A steel hulled submarine with 204 batteries and the first working periscope. the periscope did not work well though and was discarded. It was also armed with torpedoes.
1903 Even Thomas Edison, the great inventor had a hand in the development of Electric boats. Steven Bowden wrote and interesting article about it in Cruising Outpost Magazine. Edison’s boat was called the Reliance and a replica of it can be seen at the Edison Museum in Ft. Myers, Florida.
1939 Electric Ferries are in use on lakes and rivers around the world. They are especially useful on pristine lakes or where water or noise pollution is critical.
1995 European championship is started. Events are staged at La Rochelle, on the Atlantic, in Switzerland and in Berlin and Hamburg. Canoe “Carl” wins with a 1,5 KW electric motor.
Today , Electric boats have become the norm with almost all large ships now powered by electric motors. These motors are usually powered by diesel generators or batteries, but new developments in solar power generation have led to new designs in ships evidenced by the construction of the “PlanetSolar”
Solar power systems can be installed almost anywhere you have the sun. Houseboats can get an enormous amount of power from solar cells because they usually have a lot of space on the roof for solar cells and room for storage batteries. A 4’by 8′ area on top of a houseboat can generate up to 2500 watt hours of power. That would power a small TV for hours and with new low power LED lighting, a boats electric requirements can easily be met.
2010 PlanetSolar traveled around the world using solar power alone, finally completed the ground-breaking trip on May 4, 2012. With two 60 KW electric motors and the latest in lithium-ion batteries it cruised at 7.5 knots with maximum speed of 14 knots.
In Australia solar powered electric boats cruise up the Mundoo River. Designed by Michael Storer the Mundoo II design can move along at up to 6 knots on solar power only.They can be rented for vacation trips. (www.duckflatwoodenboats.com)
For more info on Solar powered boats visit