Electric Outboard Motors, Sustainability for Washington Rowing

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $18,000

Letter of Intent:

The University of Washington prides itself in being a world leader in sustainability and has a mission aimed toward teaching students to be leaders in the community, state, and the nation.  At Washington Rowing we pride ourselves in the pursuit of excellence starting with our athletics and extending it to our academics and professional lives.  As one of the university's oldest sports and one of the oldest intercollegiate sports in the country, Washington rowing wants to continue the longstanding tradition of excellence by being leaders and not reactionaries in everything that we do. The next step for Washington Rowing in our pursuit of excellence is to establish rowing as a sustainable sport and to reduce the environmental impact of not only our team, but the rowing community across the country.

On an average day, Washington rowing fields between 6 and 8 wakeless launches (coach’s boats) that follow crews through practice to coach and keep rowers safe on the water. Practices stretch between 15 to 35 km depending on the day. Taking an average of 7 launches going 25 km a day and approximately 245 collegiate practices a year (Including summer rowing) this adds up to 42,875 km of transport currently run by gasoline outboard engines.  That distance burns approximately 2,145 gallons of gasoline and requires yearly maintenance and frequent oil changes, adding to the environmental impact of the gasoline outboards.

Washington Rowing pursues excellence and is a leader in the rowing community in terms of sporting and technology. To adhere to and advance our mission our goal is to be community leaders in developing environmental sustainability for the sport of rowing.  With UW CFS we can achieve that goal and educate the rowing community around the country about the benefits of electric outboards.

Environmental Summary:

Annual fuel consumption for each launch is estimated at 310 gallons a year for the fleet which is equivalent to 1,240 kWh of energy.  On average, every kWh of electricity produced in Washington produces 0.26 lbs of carbon dioxide (CO2) well below the 1.22 lb average of the United States due to investment in renewable energy.  On the contrary 23.5 lbs of CO2 are produced when burning a single gallon of gasoline. Comparing the output of Pure Watercraft electric and the current gasoline outboards, Carbon emissions would drop by 6963 lbs of CO2, from 7,285 lbs to 322 lbs for the outfitted launch. Additionally, continual oil changes and maintenance of the gasoline engines (not necessary for the electric launches) produces additional carbon waste and pollution.

Student involvement:

There are two main focuses on student involvement for the project beginning which begins with the inception and planning of the project.  From the start Washington Rowing has designed this project to be student run with minimal involvement from coaches and administrators except when absolutely necessary.  I, Weston Brown, will be heading the project with involvement from 7 other students working on the project from business, environmental, and engineering backgrounds.  Beyond the proposal writing and research that goes into the project the majority of student involvement will be in outreach and community involvement. It will be the student’s role to help spread the knowledge of electric launches to other rowing teams both locally and abroad.  


The rowing program here at the University of Washington has become a leading program within the domestic and international communities of rowing. With this standing, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to impact the community positively. Transitioning into electric motors within our own fleet of launches is only one step in creating a positive impact in the rowing community.

In addition to our own transition, we will work to educate others within the rowing community in efforts to help adapt electric launches into more clubs around the country. There are forty rowing programs within the Seattle area alone which provides us with incredible accessibility for outreach. Educating board members, athletes and coaches of local clubs about the footprint that rowing has on the environment could spark a movement towards a more sustainable rowing community here in Seattle. Eventually, we would expand our education efforts across the country and advise clubs all around the nation about Pure Watercraft Outboard and the positive impact the rowing community could have in the effort to aid our environment.

Economic feasibility:

Washington Rowing is asking for a grant from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund to cover the cost of purchasing one coach’s launch with Pure Watercraft brand electric outboards.  Pure Watercraft is a Seattle company based in South Lake Union that will be distributing their first round of electric outboards in spring 2018.  While they have not yet released exact pricing for the dual battery pack model Washington rowing is interested in, the cost will be approximately $7,000 for the electric motor (the current Honda 25 horsepower outboards cost approximately $6,000 usd with annual gas and maintenance costs of $950 usd and $445 usd respectively). An electric engine would cost $7,000 usd but will save the team $14,000 over the next 10 years in fuel and maintenance costs.The additional $11,000 requested in this application is for the boat that the electric motor will be used with.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Weston Brown