The Delta del Paraná in Argentina is the only river delta on earth that empties into another river, creating an 8,400 square-mile wetlands paradise just one hour from Buenos Aires. For the families who call the delta’s 1,000 tiny islands home, the “lanchas colectivas” – vintage mahogany wood passenger ferries powered by old diesel engines – are the primary mode of transport, albeit at the cost of the delicate ecosystem. But change is on the horizon.
The EcoLancha initiative, spearheaded by Delta Argentina Uruguay – the region’s second-largest ferry operator – is set to revolutionize river transport. The Delta Eco One, a sleek prototype, is currently conducting test runs in the Paraná River and the Rio de la Plata. The 22-passenger aluminum vessel is powered by twin Torqeedo Cruise 12.0 motors and Power 48-5000 batteries, achieving a top speed of 9 knots. An 1100 W solar panel on the roof powers the onboard equipment and air conditioning. Leonel Falcón, president of Delta Argentina Uruguay, stated, “The initial test navigations were a success, and the official launch of the EcoLancha project is imminent.” The company’s mid-term goal? To replace the entire fleet of “lanchas colectivas” with 174 EcoLancha units, creating 1,000 new jobs in the process. The project is also planning a larger, 60-passenger electric water taxi, equipped with Torqeedo’s state-of-the-art Deep Blue 100 kW electric motor.
Nicolás Fothy, a Buenos Aires naval architect and Torqeedo distributor, notes, “The Delta del Paraná is culturally and ecologically unique. Electric ferries represent a leap into the future, maintaining tradition while embracing innovation.” The EcoLancha promises a safe, efficient, and silent service, removing passenger and crew exposure to vibrations, noise, and exhaust fumes, and reducing water pollution risks. Currently, the EcoLancha team is collaborating with the Argentinian Coast Guard to develop and implement safety regulations for electric water mobility.
“We’re laying the groundwork for this technology,” explains Fothy. “It’s about fostering a culture of electric mobility on water in South America.”
Naval Electric, Fothy’s company, in partnership with Torqeedo, has already introduced several 100% electric boats in South America. The E-Delta 650 day cruiser, for example, features a Torqeedo Cruise motor and boasts a range of up to 35 nautical miles. “It’s perfect for crossing the Rio de La Plata to Uruguay and back,” says Fothy. Electric vessels are currently also operational as tour boats in the Paraná delta’s nature reserves. “Water forms the heart of many of our planet’s most delicate and ecologically significant ecosystems. In the Paraná Delta – Rio de la Plata river system, climate change instability does not only affect nature’s wonders – this region is also home to 30% of Argentina’s population. At Torqeedo, we’re dedicated to reducing pollution and protecting both the climate and local economies with environmentally friendly transportation solutions,” said Matthias Vogel, senior vice president of BU customized solutions for Torqeedo GmbH.