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James Lambden: No Putt-Putt


The engine on James Lambden’s boat makes no noise, so sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s off or running full throttle, especially because it tops out at about two-and-a-half miles per hour, and is operated with a watch-sized remote control. Nevertheless, Lambden’s workboat — which he modified from an existing hull to run on solar power — ferries men (or man) and electrical equipment from place to place in the harbor every day; Lambden’s company, Above the Waterline, does electrical work on boats. With a trolling engine fore and aft, the baby boasts extreme maneuverability. James Lambden’s boat will be featured on Earth Day in the Green Vehicles Show as the only known vehicle in Santa Barbara operating solely on solar power.

The best part is that Lambden never needs to fill ’er up with smelly dirty diesel, replace the battery, or plug it in to charge the battery. The solar panels produce six to seven amps on a sunny day, one amp on a rainy day, and when it’s all charged up, the boat has a 10-mile range. Lambden charges almost all of his cordless tools using the boat’s panels, too, and he is now completing the solarization of his 30-foot Catalina sailboat so that it relies strictly on the sun for lights, refrigeration, and powering in and out of the harbor.

Lambden is soon to be in the market for another earth-friendly vehicle: an electric car. He would prefer one that avoids the grid to reduce the coal burning that produces most electricity. “I think it’s possible to live off the grid in Santa Barbara,” Lambden said. “You can’t say that about back East, so I think it’s our responsibility to do any little thing we can.”

Maybe Lambden will find the car of his dreams at this year’s Green Vehicles Show. An all-electric car from Phoenix Motor Cars of Ojai, which exceeds California speed limits and gets 120 miles on one charge, will be on display, according to show organizer Arjun Sarkar. The car can be charged using solar panels on the roof of a house. For those who can’t afford a roof in Santa Barbara, a frisky little golf cart refurbished with solar panels by students of Santa Barbara Junior High School industrial arts teacher Mike Shallenberger might be just the thing. Commercially available, all-electric cars that top out at 25 mph will be on display, along with several major manufacturers’ hybrids and flex fuel vehicles that use either regular gas or E85 (85 percent ethanol fuel), and autos that run on biodiesel fuel, which is 99.9 percent soybean oil and can replace diesel directly with no engine conversion necessary. Finally, an internal combustion hydrogen engine such as those Governor Schwarzenegger promised would resolve the world’s energy issues will be there too, EPA-certified, and ready to sell. But if Lambden can’t find what he’s looking for there, maybe he’ll just make his own.

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