If someone told you that a pair of electric outboard motors had the range to carry you on a 1,000-nautical-mile journey down the Atlantic coast, would you believe it?
Last week, a three-person crew from electric outboard maker Vision Marine Technologies departed from Electrified Marina in Norfolk aboard a 23’ Zenith pontoon boat. It’s equipped with a 3 kW solar array on its canopy, twin banks of lithium batteries in parallel, and twin electric outboard motors. They are well underway on an epic, 1,050 nautical mile voyage they’re calling the Amped Up Distance Challenge.
This expedition shows off the long-range capabilities of sustainable electric power, as Vision’s team navigates from the lower Chesapeake to Miami, Florida. Their mission is to demonstrate the potential of clean, efficient electric boating technology. The tentative itinerary, built around 20-50-nm daily runs, includes stops at several Vision Marine Technology dealerships and partnering marinas along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It gives us a good look at a recreational application for electric marine power, whether for an odyssey like this or simply a relaxing day on the water.
Crew for the Amped Up Distance Challenge include a couple of experienced cruising sailors, Francois Legare (Captain) and Sylvie Latendresse (Navigator), assisted by Vincent Prevost, Brand & Communication Director at Vision Marine Technologies. When we caught up with the crew Tuesday afternoon, they were in Oriental, North Carolina, headed for Morehead City Wednesday.
So far, the weather and the bugs have provided some challenges to the crew. Most nights, they sleep ashore with the boat plugged into pier power. They did spent a night aboard in the Dismal Swamp Canal, where they met a large population of nocturnal insects.
Plugging in the battery bank alone gives the pontoon a range of 50-60 miles traveling at 5-6 knots. If the day is sunny, the boat can run on the solar array alone. Learning to observe and manage energy well is key.
Vision Marine Technologies, based in Quebec, has previously laid down a powerful marker for the marine industry with its 180-hp Emotion 180E outboard, which comes as a complete power system with lithium batteries, an inverter, and an integrated control system. With twin 180Es installed on a 32’ HellKat catamaran, the system has set the current on-water speed record for electric power, 109 mph on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. The company is also working with Groupe Beneteau and The Limestone Boat Company to pair the E-Motion 180E with models like the Four Winns H2E.
The company also offers a range of smaller 15’6” – 21’7” boats with simpler power packages for quiet, leisurely, 5-to-6-knot exploration of creeks, rivers, and harbors. It is these boats that Electrified Marina offers for rent on Norfolk’s Lafayette River, and the Amped Up pontoon boat runs a pair of similar motors. The custom battery bank can power the boat for a full 12 hours (a 50-60-mile range), and even more on sunny days in the open waters of the ICW, when the overhead solar array supplements the batteries. (The Dismal Swamp Canal was not so kind to the solar array over the weekend, with its long overhead canopy of trees and a hard rainstorm.)
Read more about the Challenge here. Prevost is documenting the trip online and on social media with text, photos, and videos. You can track the Amped Up boat and crew on the Vision Marine Technologies Facebook page.
-John Page Williams