January 24th, 2015
Yachting Magazine, December 2014: by Vincent Daniello
When will battery-powered craft become practical? Sooner than you think.
President Grover Cleveland pushed a button and the world changed. He was in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition celebrating Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. For the first time on a large scale, 11,000 kilowatts of electricity illuminated 250,000 electric light bulbs, instantaneously igniting wonder in everyone. Scores of electric motors also silently sparked life into fair exhibits, enkindling the imaginations of industrialists and entrepreneurs.
That historical spring day was an exciting time not just for electricity, but for all innovation. Fairgoers experienced the first motion-picture theater and saw their first automobile — a 1.8-horsepower Daimler. They watched the Chicago Athletic Association football team beat West Point 14-0 in the first successful night football game. They soared, 2,160 passengers at a time, 264 feet above the fair’s central Midway Plaisance Park aboard George Ferris’ massive steel revolving wheel, and they glided among exhibition halls to only the sound of water against hulls and passengers’ conversations in 55 impeccably varnished 36-foot battery-powered launches.
“All 55 of those boats sold like hot cakes after the fair,” says Joseph Fleming, who for a decade-plus owned the Electric Launch Co. (Elco), the builder that emerged from those vessels. The first Elco sales weren’t just riding a wave of excitement generated by the 27 million fair attendees; they were solving other problems too. Steam-powered boats in the United States, even tiny private yachts, required a licensed engineer. Naphtha engines were a passable yacht alternative, but both steam and naphtha raised serious safety concerns. Electricity was simply the most practical method to propel a powerboat in 1893, and seemingly far into the future.
Fate, however, sidestepped electric propulsion. Two months before the fair closed that autumn, Rudolf Diesel ran his first prototype engine. Gottlieb Daimler, who actually honeymooned at the Chicago event, had been the first to put a gasoline engine in a powerboat, in 1886. By the early 1900s, cars and boats would go faster and farther with a tankful of liquid fuel than with batteries, and the best technology rapidly won out. Some people predicted it would be 135 years — two decades from now — before technology tipped the other way and all-size electric boats became as ubiquitous as household electricity.
Twenty years from now? Or might it happen sooner? Consider that NASA and Boeing are jointly projecting commuter-class, battery-powered jet aircraft in 10 to 20 years, and battery-powered 737-size planes in just 30 years. Once batteries and electric motors provide the same horsepower and range in the same weight as diesel, electric power will spread as quickly as the Model T Ford when it went from 10,000 produced in its inaugural 1909 model year to more than 3 million on the streets by 1919, with technology that had been solidified into Daimler’s automobile just one year before that Chicago fair.
Being green won’t be the driving force toward electric propulsion, either. Lower operating costs will. Consider the 32-foot Wenona built by Elco in 1899 and recently refurbished by Hall’s Boat Corp. in Lake George, New York. The boat is still running on her original electric motor and controller after 115 years of not particularly gentle use. “Somewhere around 1,000 to 3,000 hours, a DC motor needs to have the brushes replaced and commutator dressed,” Fleming says, but little else. Both were completed, and Wenona ’s electric motor was rewound with new copper wire. The original electric controller — a rotating wooden, brass and copper 10-pole switch that alters connections between two battery banks and two resistors to vary her speed — also needed surprisingly little work.
Fleming, an electrical engineer by training, became one of the largest suppliers of industrial AC motor controllers before selling his company in 1983 and then becoming involved with Elco, which has since changed hands a few times. Fleming is now back aboard heading up Elco’s engineering. Five years ago he switched its boats from DC motors to three-phase AC motors. AC was proved the better choice all the way back in 1893 when George Westinghouse powered the fair with it, but AC propulsion wasn’t practical for battery-powered boats until recently, thanks to advances in inverter technology that converts DC to variable frequency AC.
With Elco’s switch to AC, its electric motors require no maintenance for 50,000 hours, Fleming says. Propeller speed and direction — down to 1 rpm at full torque — are handled entirely within the motor’s solid-state controller, negating the need for transmissions too.
“With mechanical drag from the brushes and electrical losses in the armature and field windings, DC motors will never be as efficient as AC motors,” Fleming says. Wenona ’s 1899 DC motor uses about 80 percent of its battery power for propulsion, while the best diesels convert about 35 percent of their fuel energy into shaft revolutions. In gasoline motors, it’s about 25 percent. “AC motors were over 90 percent efficient 50 years ago,” Fleming says.
Wenona illuminates the reason gasoline and diesel won out a century ago, and why electricity will again eclipse internal combustion engines in our lifetimes: the power stored in each pound of battery. Wenona ’s original batteries, nickel iron plates immersed in potassium hydroxide held in large glass containers, offered a bit less than half the power per pound of lead-acid batteries 100 years later, but lithium has nearly quadrupled that power again in just over a decade. “Within five years, there will be major improvements over lithium iron phosphate batteries we have today,” Fleming says, pointing out current technology harnesses less than 15 percent of lithium’s potential.
Batteries currently store considerably less energy than fossil fuel does, but emerging battery technologies using spongelike metal cathode structures to increase internal surface area, as well as alternative metals, promise rapidly changing capabilities. “It’s entirely conceivable that in 20 years we’ll have batteries that are eight or 10 times what lithium is today,” Fleming says. The big area of improvement for electric motors, Fleming adds, is in size and weight. Wenona ’s 5- horsepower motor weighs 250 pounds. “We’ll see electric motors making 25 horsepower per pound,” Fleming says. “A 250-horsepower motor will weigh 10 pounds and fit in your arms.”
Once the combined weight of electric motors and batteries is less than the same weight of diesel fuel and diesels, planing hulls will go farther and faster using electricity. There will simply be no practical reason to install an internal combustion engine. “A company founded on electric propulsion because it was the best available technology at the turn of the century built [boats] with gas engines because it was the only way to stay financially afloat then, and has now converted them to electric power because it’s the future of boating,” Fleming says. “We’re at the beginning of a tidal wave. Everything that moves — cars, trucks, trains, boats and planes — they’ll all be electric.”
Elco’s bright beginnings at the fair dulled once gasoline dominated propulsion. Electric Boat Co., makers of diesel-electric submarines, bought Elco before World War I. Elco continued building boats, many gasoline-powered, including 399 PT boats during World War II. With the Cold War, General Dynamics — renamed from Electric Boat Co. — led the development of nuclear subs, and small-yacht production faded into a pile of records in a New Jersey warehouse, until Fleming’s vision revived the company.
“In Wenona , we’re running 115-year-old technology today,” Fleming says. Can the same be said for gas or diesel boats built today? Only once they’re repowered to electric.
June 18th, 2014
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Press Office
June 17, 2014
Albany, NY (June 17, 2014) – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of an all-electric dredge tender work boat on the Erie Canal in the Utica area. The project is the result of a partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). Additionally, the New York State Canal Corporation collaborated with Yorkville-based New West Technologies, LLC, in order to determine how best to transition the State’s work boat fleet to a cleaner propulsion system. The boat’s new electric motor was designed by Elco Motor Yachts, LLC, of Athens, New York.“By partnering with the private sector, New York State is transforming an 86-year old tug boat into a cleaner, greener and more modern zero-emission vehicle,” Governor Cuomo said. “Projects like this demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment and show how this continued dedication is laying the groundwork for a clean energy economy of tomorrow.”The project makes use of a 1928 tug boat, now used as a dredge tender, for removing buoys and other canal work. Previously running off a 1980s-era diesel engine, the boat is now powered by a battery-powered all-electric powertrain system. The all-electric system eliminates exhaust emissions and the potential for fuel spills, while lowering maintenance costs and reducing noise. The result is a more environmentally- and economically-sustainable solution.
“This project is one example of our work to promote cleaner transportation resources,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Chairman Howard P. Milstein. “We have the great privilege and responsibility of maintaining one of our nation’s premier engineering marvels, and a large part of that responsibility is respecting the environment around the canal system. By utilizing green technologies, we will be able to reduce emissions and help make New York’s canal corridor cleaner and more beautiful.”“Environmental Stewardship is one of our primary responsibilities at the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Executive Director Thomas J. Madison. “We will continue working to incorporate greener technologies into our operations while encouraging New Yorkers to follow suit. This will not only allow us to help make New York a cleaner place, but also grow the green jobs industry through these types of public-private partnerships.”“We are proud to help lead the charge towards the development and use of electric vehicles in New York State,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “With the help of our partners in the private sector, we will continue to find innovative ways of adapting our century-old infrastructure to provide cleaner and more efficient service to our customers and neighbors along New York’s Canal corridor.””This collaboration with Canal Corp. and NYSDOT supports Governor Cuomo’s call to increase the use of zero-emission vehicles in the transportation sector, which is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuel,” said NYSERDA President and Chief Executive Officer John B. Rhodes. “Encouraging the use of electric vehicles will not only provide environmental benefits but will stimulate economic activity as part of the State’s overall efforts to scale up the clean energy economy.”“This new electric boat will help reduce the carbon footprint of transportation in New York State, and the research associated with its use will help manufacturers refine and improve upon the existing technologies,” said NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. “Governor Cuomo is leading the way in supporting the development of clean energy and is using that to improve our transportation system to support economic activity created by shipping and leisure travel on the New York State canal system.”The Canal Corporation partnered with New West Technologies, LLC (New West), an engineering consulting firm from Yorkville, NY, to evaluate and help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its work boat fleet. The initial feasibility study completed through this partnership illustrated the lifecycle cost savings and considerable environmental improvements of the new power train in comparison to the Canal Corporation’s current fleet.
“New West Technologies is proud to partner with the New York State Canal Corporation to evaluate the electric boat’s performance and to help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its work boat fleet,” said Russell Owens, P.E. of New West Technologies. “The initial Phase 1 feasibility study validated the energy, economic, and environmental benefits of electric propulsion for Canal Corporation’s work boats. As we continue in the Phase 2 field demonstration, we look forward to continuing to work with Canal Corporation, Elco Motor Yachts, and our partners at the State to evaluate the tender’s operational and maintenance data to support the goal of transitioning the long-term sustainability of New York’s fleet.”
Additionally, New West will collect real-world data from both the all-electric boat and a standard diesel boat to analyze the real-world performance benefits for the Canal Corporation and other entities considering the use of all-electric or hybrid-electric marine powertrains.
The electric powertrain was developed and manufactured by Elco Motor Yachts, LLC (Elco), located in Athens, NY. Elco developed the system that tightly adapts two electric motors into a robust powertrain configuration that could be applied to the dredge tender. The electric powertrain is particularly impressive with its modular design. This design allows it to be easily configured for other dredge tender boats with more or less electric motor power and more or less battery capacity, as needed.
“Elco is proud to be a partner in this demonstration of electric propulsion on the historic Erie Canal,” said Elco President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Lamando. “Elco’s own history dates back to 1893 when its first electric boats shuttled more than one million passengers to and from the Chicago World’s Fair. Today, we are reinforcing our industry-leading position by propelling Tender 4 in an environmentally sustainable way using energy from New York’s electric grid. With Elco’s twin EP-10000 motors, the tender will now silently work with zero exhaust emissions and without contributing to water pollution. Elco electric propulsion systems also help save money in fuel and maintenance costs – a win for the Erie canal system waters, workers and taxpayers.”
“As the Erie Canal itself was started in the Greater Utica area, it is fitting that this groundbreaking initiative likewise has its start in Utica. Like Nano Utica, this partnership of public and private industry to create technological advances positions this area, and New York State, to be a leader in the development of advanced technologies. I applaud Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton and the other partners on this important announcement” said City of Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri.
“This is a great example of how, no matter how long something’s been done one way, there’s always an opportunity to do it a better way,” said Senator Joseph Griffo. “By converting this tug from diesel to electric, engineers are confident we’ll save money and reduce the amount of harmful emissions we put into our air. If this proves cost effective, I’d love to see more Canal equipment converted in the future. I thank the Canal Corporation, the DOT & and the private sector engineers that collaborated on this powertrain system and brought it here to the Erie Canal.”
“This project will serve as a very visible example of ways the state can significantly reduce the use of harmful emissions through the use of clean energy technology,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica. “The Mohawk Valley has long been a center of creativity and new technology, and it is good to see the Canal Corporation partnering with a Mohawk Valley company, New West Technologies, for this innovative demonstration project that will bring environmental and economic benefits to the state.”
“When government and the private sector work collectively with an eye on innovation there is no limit to the possibility,” said County Executive Anthony Picente. “The achievements this project makes possible will help drive the clean energy industry here in Oneida County.”
The funding for the development of the all-electric dredge tender was made possible through the Integrating Mobility Strategies for a Sustainable Multi-Modal Transportation Network Program Opportunity Notice, a partnership between NYSERDA and DOT, to demonstrate underutilized technologies and approaches that improve the energy efficiency and emissions production in New York’s transportation and freight delivery system.
With this latest initiative, New York’s role as a leader and first mover in shaping the future of energy remains firmly in place. By developing innovative market solutions, the State is delivering on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to transform the energy industry into a more resilient, clean, cost-effective and dynamic system. Working with State, citizen and industry-stakeholders, the way of doing business in New York is moving to a more market-based, decentralized approach. This transition means preserving the environment, decreasing energy costs, and creating economic growth opportunities for current and future generations of New Yorkers. In advancing these new energy systems and solutions, New Yorkers will have improved energy affordability and efficiency without sacrificing the ability to live in a cleaner, resilient and more sustainable environment.
Governor Cuomo has been a leader in advancing zero emission vehicles as one way to achieve energy diversity, reduce pollution and create jobs. Just last month, New York State was joined by seven other states to unveil a plan to dramatically increase the number of clean vehicles on our roads. Under the Multi-State Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, the states set a goal to have 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles in the U.S. by 2025.
Tug Boat in the News.
- Elco powers first all-electric workboat in Erie Canal, Boating Industry
- 86-year-old tugboat doing canal work in Utica runs on electricity, Utica OD
- New Electric Boat to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Erie Canal, Dredging Today
- Canal Corp unveils new green tanker, WKTV
- Canal Corporation Retrofits Old Tug Boat, Binghamton TWC
February 5th, 2014
If you love sailing you can’t afford to miss this four-day sailing event—It’s Southern California’s best place to see, board and buy sailboats, sailing gear and accessories. Shop, compare and save on all your favorite brands.
- Elco Electric Motors
- New & brokerage sailboats—both mono- and multihulls ranging in sizes from 6 to over 76 feet.
- Sailing gear, rigging & accessories for all boats.
- Charter companies, travel & crew services and much more.
January 22nd, 2013
Elco’s waterway this week is Adam’s Lake State Park. Located in Ohio’s bluegrass region, its one of the state’s most scenic and biologically interesting areas. This lake lies in an area rich in natural diversity with many unique plants and animals. Why is it our waterway you ask? Aside from being a beautiful lake wedged between the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this lake accommodates non-powered craft and those with electric motors only.
Adam’s Lake is a 47-acre lake open to fishing, picnicking, and hiking. Nice catches of largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, bullhead, and carp are common. There are 4 picnic areas with tables and restrooms located through the park. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, division of parks and recreation operate Adam’s Lake State Park. Try out an eco-friendly Elco motor on Adam’s Lake of Ohio and enjoy.
For more information about Adam’s Lake, visit http://www.stateparks.com/adams_lake_state_reserve_in_ohio.html
January 16th, 2013
October 4th, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Elco Motor Yachts Expands Line of Electric Motors and Services for Customers and Installers
Elco will be exhibiting with Hunter-Marlow Marine on Dock A at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD October 4-8.
ANNAPOLIS, MD– October 4, 2012 – Elco Motor Yachts, a leader in electric propulsion systems, will announce its most powerful motor in the Elco EP series at the U.S. Sailboat Show this week. Available shortly, the Elco Motor Yachts EP-10000 will deliver all the benefits of the company’s Electric Motor for sail and power boats in a system that is comparable to a 100 HP diesel engine. In addition, Elco is announcing a Certified Installer Network supported by an updated motor sizing and pricing section on the company’s website, as well as the new E-Gauge VII full color cockpit display for all Elco “E-Power” electric motors. The expanded offering follows last year’s debut of both the award-winning Elco electric-powered Hunter e27 sailboat and the Hunter e36 Hybrid built by Marlow-Hunter.
At the U.S. Sailboat show, Elco will showcase the EP-4000 alongside the Marlow-Hunter e36 hybrid powered by the same propulsion system.
Elco EP electric motors, which operate with a variety of recharging accessories and components, are being installed in sailboats, yacht tenders, trawlers, catamarans and launches worldwide. Professional boat builders are choosing Elco for the performance and dependability of its EP motors, as well as the company’s quick response service system. According to Channel Cutter Yachts builder and Elco customer Bryan Gittins of Ladysmith, BC, “The Elco motor just makes sense. I like the features, environmental benefits and the dependability. I’m not putting anything in one of my boats that isn’t going to perform.”
The e36 Hybrid is an example of a high performance vessel powered by an electric motor. Using the Elco EP-4000, it includes an integrated network of recharging options that provide you with a cruising range of 812 nautical miles at 5.0 knots using lithium iron batteries, a 14 kW generator with 50 gallons of fuel and solar panels and wind turbine. The Elco powered e36 Hybrid was recently featured at the Dana Point Harbor Boat Show and is now part of the SailTime fleet in Newport Beach. The boat cruised to Twin Harbor, Catalina Island almost every weekend this past summer.
“Elco has been innovating electric propulsion since 1893,” says Elco CEO Steve Lamando. “The new Elco E-Power line, consisting of six AC models and supported by a growing installer network, will give more sailors and boaters across the country an opportunity to weigh the benefits of a cleaner, more efficient and ultimately more affordable option.”
All Elco EP motors exceed up to tenfold the motor life duration standards of traditional gas and diesel propulsion systems and are rated to 50,000 hours. They replace high cost systems that regularly require maintenance and subject users to the emissions of gas and diesel engines. Elco provides a clean energy system with the option of recharging the batteries by shore power, solar panels, generator or a wind turbine. Elco E-Power systems offer sailors and boaters more than just environmentally conscious cruising. The AC motor lowers engine operating and maintenance costs, eliminates the carbon monoxide and fumes present with traditional motors, runs cooler and quieter, and weighs far less than gas or diesel engines. In addition, AC electric motors offer an advantage over DC models due to the lack of brushes and moving parts which require regular maintenance and can wear out. Elco EP motors have only one moving part and are completely sealed, making them highly water resistant to guard against moisture damage or corrosion. For repowering applications, all of Elco’s EP motors fit easily onto existing diesel engine motor mounts. The Elco EP motor and accompanying components are fully integrated and turnkey and include an easy-to-use full-color display panel option, throttle, key switch, power boost button and other key components as shown on the company website.
To learn more, or to arrange an appointment or interview, please contact us at (877) 411-3526, or via e-mail at: email@example.com.
About Elco Motor Yachts Elco provides the marine industry with environmentally friendly electric propulsion systems for sailboats and powerboats of up to 75 feet. The company matches its highly efficient AC electric motors with traditional and renewable energy sources to create integrated, turnkey auxiliary systems for new and repowered yachts. Elco motors are known for their safe, efficient operation, simplicity, reliability and ease of installation. Elco is a pioneer in electric propulsion, introducing the first electric motor at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
About The US Sailboat Show: The United States Sailboat Show, in its 43rd year, is the premier sailing showcase in the United States. More than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the show on the waterfront of Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland.
October 3rd, 2012
For sailing enthusiasts, it doesn’t get any better than this. The 43rd
Annual United States Sailboat Show starts this Thursday, October 4 and
runs through Sunday the 8th. Held in Annapolis, MD, the home of the US
Naval Academy, the show’s website touts this event as “…the place to
buy, sell, or dream.”
Fifty thousand guests are expected for the event’s four days, and
there will be something for everyone. Daily seminars from Cruising
World and Chesapeake Bay magazines, interactive workshops and boat
demonstrations, domestic and international racing vessels, and
thousands of products and exhibitors will be on display. We hope you
can find some time to get down to Annapolis and check it out!
For more information on the show, visit
May 5th, 2012
Lake George, New York – Hall’s Boat Corporation is hosting an Open House on Saturday, May 12 from 11-1PM.
Join Mr. Joe Fleming, one of the founders of ACBS, past owner of Elco Electric Launch and now design engineer at Elco Motor Yachts for the new modern Elco motors. Joe will discuss the history of Elco and will have on display the new AC motors sold by Elco today.
On the shop floor with restoration nearly complete is Wenona, the famed 1899 Elco Electric launch. Attendees will be able to view her original electric motor, as well as many old photos and information about this historic boat.
Wenona was built in 1899 and delivered to the F.R. Smith yard on Lake George where she was used to demonstrate the qualities of electric boats. In 1903 she was purchased by Bishop Stires, who owned a camp at Shelving Rock and who was a prominent figure in New York as well as on the lake.
Wenona became a Lake George icon in the 20the century, as the favorite boat of the popular bishop and his family.
Participating in the open shop will be members of the Hall’s restoration team that made her re-birth possible.
Hall’s will also have on display a variety of classic boats currently in their improved boat shop for restoration and repair.
April 18th, 2012
Elco Motor Yachts, the Athens, N.Y., electric motor manufacturer, showcased its EP4000 AC on the Hunter e36 Hybrid sailboat. “There’s no smoke, no noise, no vibration,” Elco senior vice president Kevin Kearns says. The AC motor is 93 percent efficient, compared with 45 percent for most diesel engines and 25 percent for 2-stroke gasoline engines, he says. Kearns says that at $8,500, the cost is comparable to a diesel system. The lithium batteries last six to eight years, and the motor, which is sealed and has just one moving part, requires servicing once every 50,000 hours to repack the thrust bearing, he says. “Range is 46nm at 5 knots on batteriesonly” and “A range of 812nm at 5 knots using batteries and generator as a hybrid with 50 gal of fuel. Operating cost is about 8 cents a nautical mile. The 12-volt batteries are rechargeable from shore power, solar panels, a wind turbine or a 14-kW generator. “You can get to hull speed instantly with a generator running and dead batteries,” he says.
April 15th, 2012
by Eugene Story
ELCO, Maine Electric Boats and the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard participated together at the Maine Boatbuilders show this year. The Boat Builders Show is a very special show in that it brings together boatbuilders, those that professionally maintain boats and serious boaters. There are very few at the show who do not have a serious interest in boating.
Although ELCO had a booth at last years show, having a boat with an Elco motor installed certainly attracted more people. The show attracts many Mainers but there are also many attendees from Nova Scotia, Massachusettes, and New Hampshire and others from afar. It is a time of serious boat talk between boaters and builders.
The attraction this year was the Electric Downeaster. The Downeaster lobster boat of Maine is looked on by boaters as one of the most seaworthy boat designs in existence having evolved over many years of lobster fishing on the coast. While the latest versions have mostly followed the trend to large high powered diesel engines for maximum speed, this has been at the expense of high fuel costs and pollution of water, air, and sound. There is a growing interest is zero emission boats that operate silently at hull speed at a fraction of the horsepower and without pollution.
Maine Electric Boats, the ELCO dealer for Maine, and the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, in searching for a classic lobster boat hull to demonstrate a downeaster hull with electric propulsion found a 50 year old wooden lobster boat in Boothbay Harbor Maine built for a smaller hull speed engine. We installed the engine last fall and ran trials. The boat performed well reaching hull speed (6.5 knots) with a 20HP ELCO motor. Although the boat has not had its final finish there was a steady stream of visitors over the 3 days of the show and a real interest in electric propulsion. There were also many sailboaters who are looking to repower with an electric motor.
It is still an educational process for most boat builders and boaters and seeing an ELCO motor in a classic lobster boat has given them a good boost. It is those pursuing classic boat building and restoration who will be the leaders.y