Grand Canyon motorboats are typically propelled by a conventional 30 hp four-stroke Honda Marine outboard and on average, operate for about four to six hours per day. Each boat carries two motors (one in reserve) and burns approximately fifty gallons of fuel while traversing 300 river miles over six to eight days. Each season, 100 motor rigs are used to conduct about 425 such trips. Grand Canyon motorboats travel at approximately eight to ten miles per hour, a bit faster than the river’s current which runs about four to six miles per hour. At normal cruse, the motors are operated at about one-third to one-half throttle.
A fully outfitted Grand Canyon motor rig costs about $50,000. The motors and fuel tank represent approximately $10,000 of this amount. The Honda outboards have a six year service life in this operation.
Here’s the meat of it all.
It is more than likely that any alternative system is going to be much more expensive, more complex, may not be as durable, and will, of course, not be supported by a corporate manufacturer or dealer network. Due to the low number of units, it is also unlikely that any OEM manufacturing will be feasible. Frankly speaking, this project makes no business or economic sense whatsoever.
So why have the Grand Canyon river concessionaires agreed to become contractually obligated to pursue this effort over the next ten years?
A profound desire to provide the best possible visitor experience and to be good neighbors while traveling through precious natural resources, the multitude of difficult and troubling energy use related issues – the river concessionaires believe it is their responsibility to examine the possibilities for an alternative propulsion system. They also wish to place their industry on the vanguard of society’s move toward some type of sustainable energy future.
How does Hatch River Expeditions participate?
Hatch is a member of The Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association (GCROA), a non-profit trade group headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona that represents the Grand Canyon river concessionaires. The participating outfitters support the project financially throughout the term of their respective concession contracts. In addition to annual support, Hatch sent a raft down the river for the Alternative Motor test in 2009.