NZ jet boat attraction replacing V8 with electric

The world famous Shotover Jet canyon river ride has received a grant from the New Zealand government to convert a jet motor on one of its boats from fossil fuel V8 to electric.

The boats carry 14 people each, go speeding through narrow canyons and skimming across gravel flats with water only 10cm /4” deep and have taken more than 3 million people along the Shotover River – called Kimiākau in Maori.

The idea of taking tourists down the river on a powerboat only became a reality with the development of the modern waterjet engine by New Zealander Bill Hamilton in the 1950s. His work made jet propulsion for boats extremely popular throughout New Zealand and Australia and innovations are still going on, like the Doen waterjet we reported on in July.

All started with a 1965 Hamilton Jet30

two men beside a small runabout boat in 1965The first ‘Shotover Jet’ was a 4m / 14’ Hamilton Jet30 that held pilot Herm Palmer and one guest. The popularity of the attraction literally took off, the boats got bigger and faster and carried its 1 millionth passenger in 1995.

In 1999 the company was purchased by the Ngāi Tahu, Māori people on whose ancestral land the Kimiākau is located.

There are now 7 boats in the Shotover fleet, each powered by double 350 Mercuiser V8s coupled with Hamilton 212 Jet Units that thrust 760 litres of water per second.

The thrill ride is one of New Zealand’s most popular attractions and has been Supreme Winner at the New Zealand Tourism Awards numerous times.

The Ngāi Tahu applied to New Zealand’s $800,000 ($US 500,000) Marine Electrification Fund Recipients administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

They received $200K (US$125,000) for a pilot project to convert one of the boats – about a third of the total conversion cost.

Plans to convert 7 boat fleet from V8 to electric

If successful, the plan is to convert the whole fleet as well as jet boats the Ngāi Tahu operate in four other locations.

an aerial view of a jetboat going through the narrow Shotover canyonNgāi Tahu Tourism chief executive Quinton Hall said the project would make Shotover Jet the first tourism business in the world to operate an electric jet boat.

“This is an exciting step in our journey towards a more sustainable tourism model and we are thrilled to be working with EECA again.”

Along with Shotover Jet, three other projects received funding from the Marine Electrification Fund:

  • Viaduct Harbour water taxis is converting two existing ferries to battery electric propulsion for harbour tours and taxi service.
  • Black Cat Cruises is building a 70-seat electric public passenger ferry for service between Lyttelton and Diamond Harbour
  • Petroleum Logistics is installing New Zealand’s first public marine fast charger and also retrofitting a marina work boat.



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