In the not-too-distant future, 600 hp electric boats capable of speeds of 35 knots will not be uncommon on Lake George.
Lake George may even have its own electric-only boat dealer.
If and when that day comes, those boaters must be immune to “range anxiety” – a syndrome common to owners of electric cars and boats.
Scott Canning, Vice President for US Operations of Aqua-Superpower, a British-based manufacturer of marine superchargers, envisions a “robust” network of eight high-capacity superchargers extending from Ticonderoga to Lake George Village, ensuring that every electric boater is no more than ten miles from a fast charge.
Lake George’s First Supercharger Installed at Queen Boat Company
Canning’s company is off to a good start. The first of potentially several superchargers was installed on the lake in early May, at Queen Boat Company in Dunhams Bay. A second will be operational at Silver Bay’s Morgan Marine within a few months.
On June 9, the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce and CVB and the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsored a ribbon cutting ceremony at Queen Boat Company for the new supercharger.
The ribbon cutting was not so much for the supercharger itself, but for what it represents: “the future,” to quote New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who was represented at the event by Lake George Park Commission executive director Dave Wick.
Making electric boating feasible and practicable, “is cutting edge, and I’m thrilled to see it happen on one of our most precious and protected natural resources,” Hochul stated in a letter read by Wick to the gathering.
“The environmental benefits of electric boating are huge,” said Joe Zalewski, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Regional Director.
“Transportation is one of the two largest sources of carbon emissions in New York, and as we reduce emissions from land-based transportation, it’s exciting to see progress being made on the water-side of things as well,” Zalewski said.
Another form of pollution mitigated by electric boats: noise, said Scott Canning.
“That’s what gives me a charge,” Canning said.
Hacker-Craft Goes Green
Scott Canning predicts that the number of electric boats on the lake will grow steadily, slowly at first, and then in torrents.
“The first adopters of electric boating are showing that these boats are not just a theoretical possibility: you can own one. Phase two will be an awareness that there are enough superchargers in place to make electric boating feasible,” said Canning.
“We’ve already seen an increasing number of inquiries about electric and hybrid propulsion,” said George Badcock, CEO of Hacker-Craft boats, the century-old manufacturer of mahogany speed boats,. “It’s clear that environmental concerns are driving the entire boating industry towards electric propulsion.”
Hacker introduced its first electric boat at the annual Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, held last October.
According to Badcock, Hacker’s electric-powered boat is capable of speeds of 30 knots. Its system can be recharged overnight at a residential dock or as quickly as 1.5 hours at a high-capacity supercharger.
Operated at moderate speeds, Hacker’s electric boat can run for several hours on only one charge, said Erin Badcock, Hacker’s Chief Operating Officer.
“That’s how we would expect the electric Hacker to be used; not for speed but for evening cruises or for going short distances to someone’s home for cocktails or dinner,” she said.
In addition to Hacker’s own 27’ Special Sport electric boat, the Badcocks’ Morgan Marine also offers the Electric EL2, which is powered by the same system.
Badcock said Hacker will release a second electric model by the end of the year.
Planning Now for the Future of Electric Boating
According to Scott Canning, Aqua-Superpower funds the installation and maintenance of the charging stations and pays rent to the marinas for the use of the space.
For the time being, use of the supercharger is free to all electric boaters.
“Our big goal is to remove the risks of the transition to electric boating,” said Canning. “So we shoulder the capital expense. But as the market for electric boats matures, when there are a certain number of electric boats with big batteries on the market, all requiring a decent amount of electrons, we become profitable,” said Canning. “That’s the tipping point.”
Aqua-Superpower requires the marinas hosting the superchargers to agree to exclusive, twenty-year leases, said Canning.
“Twenty-year contracts are unusual,” Canning concedes. “It scares people. I get that.”
“They’re locking up the territory before anyone else does, because the company knows that if it doesn’t, someone else will,” said Matt O’Hara, who owns Queen Boat Company with his wife Rebecca.
“The company sees the value in establishing an infrastructure of supercharging stations on Lake George, knowing that it may be ten years before it sees a return on its investment,” said Matt O’Hara of Queen Boat Company, who hosted a meeting of Canning and marina owners at his Dunhams Bay facility.
It will share whatever profits it may earn from selling electric charges with the host marina, said O’Hara.
Although the founder of Aqua-Superpower, technology entrepreneur Stewart Wilkinson, also makes high speed electric boats, the company’s superchargers are “brand agnostic,” meaning that an electric boat of any size or make can plug in and recharge, said Canning.
The Lake George Park Commission does not foresee any obstacles to installing superchargers throughout the lake, or accommodating a growth in the numbers of electric boats, said executive director Dave Wick.
Scott Canning said the next step for his company is to initiate a conversation with Lake George Village Mayor Ray Perry about the possibility of installing a supercharger at the public docks.