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Ride Solar is Canada’s first solar electric tour and transit company using water and land vehicles. It promotes sustainable tourism by using solar-powered boats and pedal buses to give tours in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward’s Island. The company contribute to the UN SDGs of affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), responsible production & consumption (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13) and supporting life below water (SDG 14).
Initially inspired by using an electric motor to power a pedal boat intended for his guests at his first business, a rotating house on Airbnb, Steve Arnold founded Ride Solar in 2015 with Peter Ixkes. Over the past seven years, they have been in trial-and-error working on the design. While many other boats claim to be solar-powered, only a fraction of the power they use is solar; the rest is diesel, which pollutes the water and air. Ride Solar’s boat is one hundred percent solar power. After years of hard work, the result is a sustainable business as Canada’s first environmentally friendly tour company offering solar-powered land and water vehicles, helping reduce the world’s carbon footprint while simultaneously offering a unique experience of the local area.
The company was founded on Prince Edward Island and has locations in Halifax and Charlottetown. Customers can book online for a tour that lasts two and a half hours to enjoy “local food, beer, wine, and culture with friends and family on our solar-powered party bike.” While many businesses have trouble getting their message to stakeholders, Ride Solar has had little issue and has attracted significant media attention. This has also attracted environmentally focused investors, who are offering to help with the project and secure funding. Ride Solar’s new concept of a solar boat tour has been attractive to many due to its fun nature and sustainability.
The inspiration for this innovation came after Steve was looking into offering a pedal boat to his Airbnb guests. There is a waterway connecting the house to a very nice local restaurant. He added an electric motor to the boat for speed. While this had little effect, Steve could enjoy a nice, relaxing ride on the water without a diesel engine's roar: he realized that electric-powered boat tours could hold appeal in both environmental benefits over diesel, and a peaceful cruise. What’s inspiring is bringing something fun to the area for both the community and tourists without harming the local landscape or community. Fun is central to Steve's management style. He has introduced employee engagement social initiatives as well as pay above the minimum wage and profit sharing. He also noted that employees enjoy dealing with people who are excited about the product and tour. Much of the employee training and re-skilling has actually been done by Steve himself, helping to strengthen his relationship with employees, fostering greater cooperation and trust among his workers.
Ride Solar contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as strengthening employee and community well-being, building awareness of these challenges and possible solutions. Within Canada's Nova Scotia, these machines (boats and peddle bikes) will tour around countless landmarks and restaurants while providing an entertaining experience to customers.
Successfully attracting investors has supported the development of Ride Solar despite the costs and time involved. When the company first began, it was focused on creating a boat running on solar power but when they realized how long it would take, they invested in the peddle buses. From this, they were able to take their innovation and modify the buses for solar electricity to run them. The peddle bikes are currently their only form of revenue which is a benefit to the business as their original idea of the boat has not yet. However, when the boat finally launches Steve expects that they will be very busy and gain attention from the nature of the boat being the “largest solar boat in North America and the world’s first dinner cruise boat”. This quality of being the largest solar boat in North America can give the business a first-mover advantage in the sustainable tourism industry because this strategy allows them to establish themselves in the market in a meaningful way because it shows how they place a great amount of emphasis on pressing environmental issues that have a profound impact on everyone in the world.
This innovation benefits the business because not only does it focus on promoting a sustainable, solar run, tourism product, but it also opens up a totally unique market of setting up dining services for their customers in order to enhance the comprehensive experience. As stated by Steve during our appreciative inquiry interview, he “wanted to supplement the boat riding experience in order to make the customer experience enriched and more memorable, and what better way to do this than to introduce food into the equation” (Steve, Ride Solar). The fact that Steve and his team were able to come up with this type of innovative idea is particularly impressive because it shows a detailed level of planning and talented entrepreneurship. Because the business introduced eatertainment into their strategy, they were able to successfully open new markets and to diversify their customer base. Being a pioneer in introducing a new innovative product or service can attract new customers, while also retaining existing ones. This innovation benefits the business because they have a competitive advantage over similar businesses in North America, since they were the first ones to come up with such a product offering. Instead of solely offering a simple, standardized boat ride, like many other tourism companies do, Ride Solar combined two new attractive features of sustainability and dining services, which will differentiate them from the rest of their competition. Steve in fact is very confident about the future prospects of the business when he stated, “who wouldn’t want to ride on the first-ever fully solar-powered boat” (Steve, Ride Solar).
The innovation benefits society and the environment by allowing clean, renewable energy from the sun to be converted into electricity that can be used to power the bikes and boats used by Ride Solar. This type of energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions which is critical to protecting wildlife, humans, and ecosystems. Diesel-powered motors pollute both the air and the water along with potential diesel and oil fuels leaking into the environment. Even just three two-and-a-half-hour tours, would lead to a large amount of pollution being omitted if the energy is not clean. This innovation allows for large amounts of carbon dioxide to be saved and makes transporting 40 people in a boat or 14 in peddle buses possible with lower emissions.
The people and government of Prince Edwards Island are also environmentally conscious, so the innovation works well for the society in the region. It provides a quiet and relaxing setting for the area's people to enjoy without the inconvenience of a loud engine. The environmentally friendly boats will also attract tourists wanting to partake in this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be done with Ride Solar. In addition, their pedal buses provide tourists with another activity to do. The environmental benefits of this innovation will have an enormous impact because they will work to improve the climate change situation occurring around the globe. Ride Solar’s ability to clearly incorporate corporate social responsibility into their product offering shows that they act in a responsible and prudent manner in order to protect the environment from future damage. Hence, they do not follow the traditional path that many businesses around the globe take of maximizing their profits economically speaking, but also place great emphasis on the sustainability aspect, and therefore should be commended for that.
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Steve Arnold, Founder
Ride Solar is a company that supports sustainable tourism by providing tours using solar-powered boats and pedal buses. With two locations in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward’s Island), Ride Solar was formed seven years ago as a response to the Canadian government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. Steve Arnold, the majority shareholder, is continually working to improve sustainability, most recently with the launch of solar-powered boats on November 3, 2022.