When you go on vacation, it’s hard to take eco-friendly habits with you. Renting a powered boat, for example, usually means you’re doomed to gobbling up fossil fuel and spewing emissions. What if you could relax on a pristine lake in a boat just as environmentally clean? Dan Baker asked himself the same question and answered it by building the Firefly, a boat powered by solely by renewable energy. While you won’t find it at a new jersey marinas just yet, Baker’s prototype brings the promise of green transportation to pleasure boating.
The really exciting news is that Baker built the Firefly for only $2,900, proving that green boating is affordable.
The Firefly’s invention is timely. We all know to be concerned about auto and truck pollution on our roads. The spoiling of our water systems has also reached a critical point, with many marine and fresh water ecosystems facing destruction. As communities look for transport alternatives to roads and expensive flights, boats such as ferries are actually being more commonly employed. The problem is that much less effort has so far gone into the design of eco-friendly water transport. However, with fuel pollution levels rising in our lakes and rivers, green boating is now a hot topic.
The Firefly is one solution that is designed for cruising calm lakes. Comfortably seating six people, it is noiseless and emission free. Baker accomplished this by building an electric boat that is powered entirely by solar panels. It has two electric DC motors to handle steering and thrust. The rear-mounted motors are brushless, giving them the advantages of low noise, reliability, and power over the brushed design. Their power source is a large solar panel made of 6 x 6 cells and mounted on the roof of the craft. The 900 LED lights look like fireflies at night, giving the boat its name.
Firefly’s solar panel, generating around 140W of renewable electricity, can power the boat for six miles at a top speed of four miles per hour. It won’t win any speed records but is perfect for cruises on small lakes or basking close to shore.
Dan Baker created the Firefly when he wanted to build his own craft for cruising around Fraser Lake in British Columbia. His original version was powered by two trolling motors and a car charger. The current prototype uses only the DC motors and is 100% solar powered.
So far, the Firefly is proving itself capable of powering several months of lake boating fun. In 2011, the craft ran entirely on solar power from June 4 to October 29. This year, the sun will power it for the entire season. As motorized pleasure craft cause much of our nation’s water pollution, the Firefly could find a strong market. Its affordable price tag is another selling point. Let’s hope that Dan Baker takes his prototype a step further for everyone’s benefit.