Hybrid-Electric Motor Completes Colorado River Trip Through the Grand Canyon

May 5, 2015

For the first time, a hybrid-electric motor has powered a Colorado River trip through the entire Grand Canyon. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the technology is being developed through a partnership between commercial river outfitters and the National Park Service.

Participants in the April trip included (from left) GCROA Executive Director John Dillon, guide Sarah Hatch, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, guide and trip leader Steve Hatch, Fred Thevinen, Trent Keller, and River District Ranger Brian Bloom.
Credit Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association


The weeklong trip from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry covered almost 300 miles. The journey tested a nearly silent, electric motor that’s been in development since 2008.

John Dillon is the executive director of the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association.

“We want to be environmental stewards. We’re looking for something that’s cleaner, something that’s quieter. Maybe uses less, or none at all, as far as fossil fuels,” Dillon says.

A boat powered by the hybrid-electric motor prototype on the Colorado River in April.
Credit Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association

Though the prototype motor has to be recharged periodically with a generator, it still uses about sixty percent less gasoline than the average engine. Dillon says as battery technology improves, river trips could eventually operate without using fossil fuels.

Credit Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association

“Really, that’s the technology we’re waiting for. The motor itself we’ve kind of honed in on. We think we’re pretty comfortable with the electric motor concept,” Dillon says.

About 20,000 people are guided through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River every year.