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Published in Energy
Lilypad Labs’ solar-powered boat that’s being piloted along the West Michigan lakeshore. Lilypad Labs’ solar-powered boat that’s being piloted along the West Michigan lakeshore. COURTESY PHOTO

West Mich. startup launches ‘carbon-free boating as a service’

BY Monday, September 05, 2022 02:24pm

Dana Lowell and his co-founders at Lilypad Labs Inc. have set out to change the way we think about accessing water — an abundant resource in West Michigan that at times can be out of reach for some.

Enter Lilypad, the company’s solar-powered, low-speed sharable boat that can be rented out for leisurely cruises. The technology leverages both clean energy and autonomous vehicle technology to make waterways more accessible. After launching its first boat in Saugatuck late last summer, the company plans to have a second vessel on the water this year. 

Lowell recently joined The MiBiz Podcast to talk about the intersection of renewable energy and mobility and “carbon-free boating as a service.” Here’s a few highlights from the conversation, which is available in full here.

On launching a startup after a long career in business development:

“I got to a point in my career where it was: If not now, when? In terms of jumping out and starting something important and something that would make a difference in the world. I’ve had the good fortune to work with super talented people in my career.”

On coming up with ‘carbon-free boating as a service’:

“We’re all corporate veterans and wanted to do it a bit differently in how we put the things together. We’re not only doing an environmental good but also a social good. We wanted to improve access to the water. Right now Michigan is the owner of 23 percent of the world’s freshwater — we wanted to improve access to the water. We wanted to make it as easy as pulling up your phone and scheduling some time to get on the lake.”

On how it works:

“It’s simple and easy to use. There’s a joystick to toggle around and point you in the direction you want to go. It only moves 5 to 6 miles per hour and is designed for waterways that are that type of speed orientation. It’s silent, super smooth in operation and absolutely the most maneuverable vessel you’ve been on. It’s designed for people who are new to boating or have never boated before.”

On being a Michigan-sourced, circular company:

“We’re really taking care of selecting the materials that are ultimately sustainable. There’s a reason why we’re using aluminum for our hall rather than fiberglass. It’s 100-percent recyclable. The batteries are upcycled Toyota Prius batteries. The timber we use in all of our decking is basically recycled salvage lumber. And we’re taking a lot of care to use locally sourced components.”

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