Future of Stratford river fleet could be electric

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Stratford Recreation Ground

The sound of the Avon could be very different in the future after the largest boat operator on the river began experimenting with electric boats last month.

Avon Boating, which maintains a fleet of 20 motorboats alongside larger cruisers and rowing boats, has long been a popular stop off for visitors, but the company already has an eye on the future, which may well spell the end to the hum of electric motors on the river.

Nick Birch, managing director of Avon Boating, said: “Despite looking very traditional and wooden, our larger 30-60 seat boats have actually been electric for around 20 years but now we’ve decided to look at the options available for the motorboat fleet. We had a month testing with an electric boat in September and it went very well, they have the advantage that they are quiet, they look a bit more modern and they are easier to use. They do cost around twice the price of a petrol boat and there is the issue of battery capacity, meaning they can only operate for about three quarters of the day before charging.

“However there are savings to be made in the long term and looking at electric makes good business and environmental sense. There will be customers who prefer the petrol boats so for the time being it will be about having the right balance available, but I would anticipate that in around five years’ time we could have an all-electric fleet. At the end of the day we’re all going to have to look at electric technology sooner or later, we just want to look at this now before we get to the stage where we are forced to change things.

“We would need to put some infrastructure in place but we’re aiming for a quiet river in the future.”