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An Electric Launch
Professor Sylvanus P. Thompson writes to The Times :-” Having been one of a privileged party of four, the first over propelled upon the waters of the River Thames by the motive power of electricity, I think some details of this latest departure in the applications of electric science may be of interest.
At half-past 3 this afternoon I found myself on board the little vessel Electricity, lying at her mooring off the wharf of the works of the Electrical Power Storage Co. at Millwall. Save for the absence of steam and steam machinery the little craft would have been appropriately called a steam launch. She is 26ft. in length, and about 5ft, in the beam, drawing about 2ft. of water, and fitted with a 22inch propeller screw. On board were stowed away, under the flooring and seats,fore-and-aft, 45 mysterious boxes, each about of about 10in. in dimensions. These boxes were nothing else than electric accumulators of the latest type, as devised by Messrs. Sellon and Volokmar, being a modification of the well-known Plante accumulator. Fully charged with electricity by wires leading from the dynamos or generators in the wonks, they were calculated to supply power for six hours at the rate of 4h.p. These storage cells were placed in electrical connection with two Siemens’ dynamos of the size known as D 3,furnished with proper reversing gear and regulators,to serve as engines to drive the screw propeller.
Either or both of these motors could be ‘switched ‘ into circuit at will. In charge of the electric engines was Mr. Gustave Phillipart, jun., who has been associated with Mr. Volokmar io the fitting up of the electric launch. Mr, Volokmar himself and an engineer completed, with the writer, the quartet who made the trial trip. After a few minutes’ rundown the river, and a trial of the powers of the boat to go forward, slacken, or go astern at will, her head was turned Citywards, and we sped- I cannot say steamed-silently along the southern shore, running about eight knots an hour against the tide. At 37 minutes past 4 London Bridge was reached, where the head of the launch was put about, while a long line of onlookers from the parapets surveyed the strange craft that without steam or visible power-without even a visible steersman-made its way against wind and tide.
Slipping down the ebb, the wharf at Millwall was gained at one minute past 5, thus is 24 minutes terminating the trial trip of the Electricity, For the benefit of electricians I may add that the total electromotive force of the accumulators was 96 volts, and that during the whole of the long run the current through each machine was steadily maintained at 24 amperes. Calculations show that this corresponds to an expenditure of electric energy of 31.11 horse power.
It is now 43years since the Russian Jacobi first propelled a boat upon the waters of the Neva by aid of a large but primitive electro-magnetic engine, worked by galvanic batteries of the old type, wherein zinc plates were dissolved in acid. Two years ago a little model boat was shown in Paris by M. Trouvé, actuated by accumulators of the Fauro-Plaute type. The present is, however, not only the first electric boat that has been constructed in this country, but the very first in which the electric propulsion of a boat has been undertaken on a commercial scale. Looking at this first practical success, who shall say to what proportions this latest application may not attain in the next decade?”
Two years later a race took place between Electricity and the electric launch Australia from Millwall to Charing Cross Bridge and back to Greenwich.
The author of the news report was Silvanus Phillips Thompson was a professor of physics at the City and Guilds Technical College in Finsbury, and was elected to the Royal Society in 1891.
However since the 1970s, electric energy in cars and boats has become more popular to help create a more environmentally friendly world.