Solar-powered water taxi under construction in P.E.I.

A couple of entrepreneurs in North Rustico are working on a solar-powered water taxi to be launched in time for P.E.I.'s tourism season.

'What a fun project, what a neat idea. These guys are true visionaries.'

This boat, originally used at Expo '67, is being converted into a solar-powered water taxi. (CBC)

A couple of entrepreneurs in North Rustico are working on a solar-powered water taxi to be launched in time for P.E.I.'s tourism season.

Steve Arnold and Peter Ixkes are converting an existing vessel to solar electricity — a first for P.E.I.

P.E.I. needs some systems like a solar transport system.— Peter Ixkes

"It involves tearing out the old diesel motor which is smelly and big and noisy and heavy, and putting in a very sleek, electric motor," explained Arnold from inside a warehouse with the boat in the background and a laptop computer showing the futuristic new design. 

The vessel, originally used at Expo '67 in Montreal, will make two runs a day from Stanley Bridge to Covehead, with stops at Cavendish and North Rustico. 

Peter Ixkes and Steve Arnold discuss plans for their solar-powered water taxi. (CBC)

"I think we're going to have about 36 big car batteries in there, and then putting solar panels on the entire roof to supply the power to the batteries," said Arnold.

The partners have sunk several hundred thousand dollars into the venture, but Ixkes— who moved here from Germany a year ago — thinks the risk is worth it, adding the Island is about 15 years behind Europe in renewable energy innovation.

"I like challenges, yeah. And I like the idea to drive green so, and P.E.I. needs some systems like a solar transport system," said Ixkes.

Not so fast

Short trips in the taxi could cost as little as $3, with longer journeys costing $20 to $30.   

"It goes low and slow, kind of like doing ribs on your barbecue," said Arnold, noting the boat averages about 15 km/hr. 

At night the vessel will do dinner cruises.

Arnold is already in the tourist business: he rents out his rotating house in North Rustico.

Sunny ways

He said they're already getting lots of interest in the project. 

Once it's done, the new solar-powered water taxi could look something like this one. (CBC)

"P.E.I. isn't flooded with sunlight like California and places like that but there's enough of it to certainly run a boat and charge batteries and I think that aspect of it, the experience, for tourists and locals alike to say 'I want to try that at least once'."

Solar boat expert Monte Gisborne is excited to be consulting on the project. 
"Are you crazy? Who wouldn't want to get behind this thing. It's incredible, look at it. What a fun project. What a neat idea. These guys are true visionaries. I like the way they think," enthused Gisborne.  

A marine safety technician with Transport Canada is making sure all the boat's refurbishments meet federal standards.  

Arnold and Ixkes say this is just the beginning: they have plans to add other kinds of solar-powered vessels to their business. 

They're planning the boat's inaugural voyage for May.

With files from Laura Chapin


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