Silencing the infernal internal combustion engine

A few years ago I visited my family in Florida for the holiday season. My sister and her family also flew in, and to their credit, her children were more interested in a family vacation to see the marine hospital in Clearwater than they were in Disney World (this is the home of Winter and Hope, the real life dolphins with prosthetic tails who starred in Dolphin Tale).

While I was there I took my first ride ever on a Wave Runner (Yamaha’s Jet Ski) and had a revelation. The ride was exhilarating. I did 54 mph in the bay. Apart from a gorgeous co-pilot, the only thing that would have improved the experience would be to eliminate the roar of the internal combustion engine. Silent jet skis.

I’ve sailed a few times and the experience is divine. It feels like flying, even though motorboats travel much faster. Technically, the sail’s propulsion operates on the same principle as a wing. But what I remember most was the quiet. Quiet enough to play music, have a conversation and hear the waves.

That same trip I also test drove a Tesla Model S for the first time. Pure power. You could be stopped at red light, in the left-most lane of a five lane road, and still make a right turn. You would be two car lengths ahead of all the other cars before they even start moving. Driving a Tesla feels like playing a game of tetris – the car is so powerful and the handling so accurate that I could put myself anywhere on the road. I began to dream of an electric jet ski.

The thing about an electric jet ski is that it need not merely be a toy for the rich. It could also be the center of a campaign to catalyze adoption of electric vehicles.

Consider for a moment – Who are Tesla’s main competitors? It’s not the Prius, or the BMW i models, or the Volt… it’s the internal combustion engine! And, with decades of marketing creating Pavlovian conditioning between the hum and the thrum of an internal combustion engine and sex and power, it’s going to be a tough nut to crack.

How does the middle class learn what’s trending with power elite?  Through the media, to be sure.  And, on vacation ????????????

Picture the scene. Vacationers arrive at the docks greeted by solar panels charging a new line of electric jet skis. They will be skeptical about their safety, power and sex appeal. Electric batteries in the water? We’ve been powering electric boats and submarines for over a century. Plus, how did we ever become convinced that detonating a bomb between our legs a few hundred times a minute while sitting on top of gallons of flammable fluid was safe? If the electric jet ski is anything like the Tesla Model S, power and sex appeal will speak for themselves. One short ride and they will be signing up to purchase an electric vehicle as soon as they return home from vacation.

Doubtful I’m going to get to this idea in this lifetime, but I would love to see it happen.

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