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Figure 15: Super Air Nautique GS22e – First Electric Water Sport Tow Boat. September 11, 2021. Courtesy Correct Craft Inc.


Do We Have To Burn Fossil Fuel To Have Fun? What Can We Do About It?

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My dad’s photo of my brothers Karl, Galen, Mark, Bruce, and myself in a row boat in Michigan, 1950. Arthur Hasler photo.

For over 100 years, Midwesterners have been traveling to Northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan to beat the oppressive heat in the summers and go swimming, boating, and fishing. In the early 20th century, they traveled by train because driving the miserable gravel roads was the only alternative. At the time, air conditioning was not prevalent and temperatures during the day and at night “up north” are cool enough to be very pleasant. No one up north had central air conditioning. There were numerous resorts on the thousands of lakes up north where dipping in the lake, canoeing, fishing, and row boating helped pass the time. In the early 20th century here, there was no electricity or indoor plumbing and the toilet was the out-house. You could only get out on the lakes in a rowboat or canoe. The environmental footprint of the vacationers at the time was very low.

Our cabin in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, was built by a wealthy Chicago businessman in 1920. When we purchased it in 1990, it had electricity, but no running water and only a hand pump at the kitchen sink. The only toilet was a two-hole outhouse in the front yard.

Today, vacationers and summer residents swarm up here on Interstate highways driving SUVs and Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, and Chevy Silverado pickup trucks towing boats and huge travel trailers.

Dodge Ram full sized “big honkin” pickup truck pulling a wakeboard boat. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. August 16, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

On the water, many people are driving float-boats and “fishing” boats powered by outboards as big as 350 hp or jet skis that swarm the lakes at speeds of up to 70 mph.

300 hp powered triple-hull float boat. Laurel Lake, Three Lakes, Wisconsin. June 20, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Friends and family on a float boat. Three Lakes Chain of Lakes. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. June 27, 2019. Fritz Hasler photo.

Granddaughter and friends on jet ski. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. June 18, 2015. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

I like to call the wakeboard boats loaded with friends and water sacks to make huge wakes for wakeboarding or surfing “small destroyers.”

Wakeboard boat. Aqua Devils Water Ski Show. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. June 21, 2017. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

On the roads, many own monstrous SUVs like the Ford Excursion and Cadillac Escalade as well as huge pickup trucks. You never know when you will have to pick up a ¼ lb box of finishing nails at Home Depot or will need seats for 6+ or will have to tow a huge wakeboard boat or 45 ft travel trailer. The other official car of the Northwoods is a regular size SUV.

Also, on the roads and swarming through the woods are thousands of ATVs burning gasoline and sounding like Harley-Davidsons.

Daughter and granddaughters on ATV. Yellowstone National Park. August 31, 2008. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

ATV lineup. Trackside ATV dealer. Eagle River, Wisconsin. June 27, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Greening of the Northwoods

What are we going to do to have fun in the future without burning fossil fuel?

Kayaks and canoes are extremely popular in the Northwoods. Canoes are still popular for carrying all the gear for camping where motor boats are forbidden, and the latest are made from Kevlar for easy portaging.

Hasler family kayaking and canoeing. Laurel Lake, Three Lakes, Wisconsin. July 22, 2010. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Daughters and granddaughters in kevlar canoe loaded with camping gear. Sylvania Wilderness. Watersmeet, Michigan. July 11, 2012. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

The first real advances in green transportation are EVs like my Tesla Model 3 and Nell’s Model Y (see picture below) that are showing up in the Northwoods. I can count 6 Teslas on just our short Bonkowski Road here that either spend the whole summer or come for short visits with their owners. The owner of the Three Lakes Winery has a Tesla Model S Performance and has installed four L2 chargers in the parking lot of his store. Tesla recently installed a Supercharger in Minocqua 40 miles west of here that opens up a great deal of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Tesla travel. With Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo, and others soon to follow using the Tesla NACS Supercharger standard, Northwoods travel will become open to most EVs.

Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. August 16, 2023. Fritz Hasler photo.

As you can see, though, there are a multiplicity of recreational devices that will have to be switched to electric propulsion. The only one that I have seen “in the wild” is the electric surfboard shown here:

Esurfboarder. Big Stone Lake. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. July 13, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Otherwise, the shift to electric propulsion is more a promise than a reality. Taiga has released a line of electric jet skis (see pic below) and plans to release a model for only $14,000 soon.

Taiga electric jet ski. August 16, 2023. Courtesy of Taiga Inc.

You can buy a Correct Craft electric wakeboard boat for $250,000, but they have a runtime of only 2 hours and we have yet to see one.

Super Air Nautique GS22e — first electric water sport tow boat. September 11, 2021. Courtesy of Correct Craft Inc.

Mercury has developed an electric outboard motor (see its 7.5e 3.5 hp below) and has promised to develop a complete lineup of electric outboards, but you won’t see one at your local marine dealer yet. Other European brands are selling electric outboard models up to 350 hp, but they are not stocked by local dealers and you can’t easily buy one.

Mercury’s Avator 7.5e electric outboard is comparable in output to its 3.5 hp gasoline outboard. August 16, 2023. Courtesy of Mercury Marine.

Polaris has an electric Ranger XT ATV that has received rave reviews, but the dealer here in Eagle River didn’t order any in time, so we have yet to see one here. I can’t wait to switch from our balky 15 hp Mercury two-cycle gas outboard motor, but my family doesn’t see the only alternative, a 2.5 hp Minn Kota trolling motor with a tiller, to be an adequate replacement. We spent 9 weeks and $600 on repairs for the Mercury two years ago and it is back in the shop again.

Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic Electric ATV. November 24, 2021. Image courtesy of Polaris.

Ford F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E at Eagle River Ford. Eagle River, Wisconsin. June 27, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

The good news: For the first time, this year, we are seeing other EV brands here in the Northwoods besides Teslas. The small-town Eagle River Ford dealer has two Mustang Mach-Es and a F-150 Lightning pickup truck. These are the first EVs to be stocked at any of the local dealerships. The salesman said they have yet to make a local sale but have sold their Mustang Mach-Es in California and Florida. I also spotted a Rivian electric SUV charging at the Three Lakes Winery Parking Lot (see below).

Rivian SUV EV. Three Lakes Winery L2 charger. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. June 20, 2023. Fritz Hasler photo.

Next year, I hope to report on more EV brands and recreational devices that have switched to electric propulsion. Please let me know in the comments section if you have observed any recreational greening up north or in other areas of the country.

Tesla has reactivated its referral program. If you find any of my articles helpful to you, please use my referral link: (be sure to use it when you make your order). If you are buying a new Tesla and use my link, you’ll receive $1000 off of your purchase price for a Model S and X, or you will get $500 off for a Model 3 and Y. You will also get 3 months of Full Self-Driving. It will drive you automatically to any address you enter into the Tesla navigation. (Just be prepared to intervene immediately if it screws up.)

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.


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