The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA) wants to increase efficiency and reduce emissions on its members’ vessels. To that end, the organization sought to convert nine boats to hybrid power for the coming season.
Unfortunately, the numbers are not working to make that happen.
“I think we’re at with boats where we were with cars, 10 years ago,” says Ian McPherson, a consultant with PEIFA. “Initially we thought we could have the boats ready this year. We thought the companies we were in conversations with had lower priced, off-the-shelf products ready to install. But that’s not the case, and when we saw what the costs would be we had to reconsider.”
According to McPherson, PEI lobsterman have two seasons that take place between May and October, and the costs and returns did not pencil out.
“Even with a 15-year amortization it just didn’t work. So we’re trying some other things. Maybe do with two or three things what we were trying to do with one. There’s a company in Iceland called Hefring Marine that has some engine control software that increases efficiency and reduces carbon emissions.”
McPherson also notes that a new propeller design from Detroit-based, Sharrow Marine could provide another tool to get the boats to the efficiency and emissions levels they’re looking for.
“That doesn’t mean we’re giving up on the hybrid,” says McPherson. “We’re talking to a couple of companies that understand what we’re trying to do. At best, we could have one or two boats converted by August 2023, but realistically it is more likely going to be spring 2024.”
According to McPherson, the research and development costs included in the price of the technology make it difficult for small boats to invest, so the efficiencies of scale cannot be used to bring the price down.
“It’s kind of the chicken and the egg,” says McPherson. “The market is there,” he adds. “We’ve got 1,600 boats around PEI, the ones that want to convert are waiting for the price point to come down.”