British Columbia

One of Vancouver's rainbow ferries gets an electric makeover

Aquabus has installed a new electric motor in one of its wooden tugboat-style vessels originally built in the 1980s.

Aquabus has installed a new electric motor in one of its older wooden vessels

Vancouver's Aquabus, a family-owned business that has run since 1985, provides passenger and sightseeing services along False Creek. (Joe Passaretti)

One of Vancouver's iconic rainbow passenger ferries has a new electric motor. 

Aquabus owner Jeff Pratt, whose family has run the company since 1985, says it's been a long-held dream to switch over to electric vessels and now, with advances in battery life and size, that dream has become a reality. 

"We just loved the idea of a little electric boat ... this is a moment we've been waiting for for a long time," said Pratt. 

The company says patrons can expect a more peaceful and environmentally-friendly ride. 

"A diesel engine is bumping and banging ... I think they're going to notice the silence and the waves hitting the boat, which is something you didn't hear before," said Pratt. 

The company chose to install the new motor in an older wooden boat that was built on Vancouver Island in the 1980s. 

"This one has done such a great service to us, and we just felt that we needed to take the old diesel out of it and put in something that's quiet so it can finish its years peacefully." 

Pratt said the process of retrofitting the vessel was a fun challenge. 

The electric motor cost more than twice as much as a traditional engine, and required a ton of work. Pratt said it took all winter to get the work completed. 

Pratt said the environmental benefits make the effort worthwhile. 

"I was listening to environmentalists and one person struck me, she said, 'You just have to start somewhere' ... it was good advice." 

Soon after, Pratt resolved to get started and began ordering the parts. 

The new electric motor will eventually pay for itself, said Pratt. The company will save on fuel costs and the new system will require less maintenance than the previous one.

"It's a little while before the payback, more than most people would feel comfortable about, but we're doing it anyway." 

He said they hope to convert more Aquabus vessels to electric in the future. 


Michelle Gomez is a CBC writer in Vancouver. You can contact her at