Boothbay-area boatbuilder Hodgdon Yachts has agreed to manufacture the Lion, a 34-foot, all-electric powerboat. A prototype, shown here, was built for Vita Yachts in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of Hodgdon Yachts and Vita Yachts

The first practical, safe motorboats were electric and were used to ferry attendees at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. But the fledgling electric power trains were soon replaced by the internal combustion engine, with its associated emissions, noise and water pollution.

But there is a movement in the marine industry for a return to electric power. Boatbuilders have been coming out with electric models of recreational powerboats, sailboats, yachts and commercial vessels.

Maine boatbuilders have recently joined the movement by bringing electric power to the luxury market. Hodgdon Yachts is the latest to take on an electric powerboat project. The Boothbay boatyard has been selected to build a 34-foot, high-performance electric yacht for Vita Yachts of the United Kingdom

Named the Lion, it was engineered by Vita using its all-electric V4 propulsion system, with peak power of 590 horsepower, cruising speed of 22 knots and peak speed of 35 knots. It was designed by BorromeodeSilva of Italy, which had worked with Vita on a previous electric prototype, the Vita X, inspired by classic boatbuilding traditions.

The Lion will have a starting price of about $926,000, according to media reports, with additional charges for upgrades.

“Our vision was to create a boat with no compromise in terms of user experience, performance and functionality, while also ensuring the least impact possible on the marine environment in which it operates,” said Rory Trahair, CEO of Vita’s Yachts Division. “This collaboration with Hodgdon combines our technical innovation and their centuries of craftsmanship at the highest levels to produce the most advanced electric powerboat built to date.”

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INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION

Hodgdon Yachts is renowned in Europe for working on superyachts, and, founded in 1816, it is known as the oldest boatbuilder in the world. Audrey Hodgdon, director of sales and marketing for Hodgdon Yachts, said the company was selected as the builder because of its high build quality and reputation on the international market.

“This is a new, cool, exciting project for us and also across all segments of the industry,” she said. “There is an increased focus statewide and also marketwide on a desire for no noise, zero emissions, more reliable boating, all of which obviously electric offers. … Electric is new, but Maine boatbuilders are at the forefront of it.”

In 2017, Maine boatbuilder Hinckley launched the world’s first fully electric luxury yacht – the 28.5-foot “Dasher,” with twin 80-horsepower electric motors and dual BMW lithium-ion batteries that can be charged with two 50-amp cables.

Currently, Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston is working with San Francisco Bay Area startup Navier on a 27-foot hydrofoil electric boat. With a 75-nautical-mile range, it is billed as the longest-range electric boat in the world. It is expected to be unveiled at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October.

The Lion’s claim to fame is its high-speed charging. Trahair said the four lithium ion batteries, with a total capacity of 240 kilowatt-hours, can be charged in one hour using DC power and in five hours using AC. A prototype of the Lion was built and launched in 2020 in the south of France, where a network of these high-speed charging stations already exists. Vita has partnered with Aqua Superpower, which is committed to building a global marine supercharging network.

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Marine high-speed DC charging technology is relatively new and not yet available in Maine, Hodgdon said, adding that expansion of such stations is a “chicken-and-egg” situation.

“There aren’t charging stations if there aren’t electric boats, but then there can’t be electric boats if there aren’t charging stations,” she said.

BATTERY-POWERED LUXURY

The Lion can hold up to eight passengers in its cockpit, which can be configured into a U-shaped dining area. Behind that, a large  deck allows room for sunbathing and swimming, with a shower and a ladder. The enclosed cabin includes a double bed, day head (toilet) and sink, as well as storage. The boat also features a touchscreen control system and a Fusion sound system throughout the boat.

Unlike the Navier boat, which uses hydrofoils to optimize range and efficiency, the Lion is designed to closely resemble traditional boats, and though it is built mainly of carbon fiber and fiberglass, it is not particularly light.

“It’s not the most highly optimized boat as far as the materials used for building the hull and the deck and that kind of thing because the batteries are so heavy,” Hodgdon said. “It really only does you so much good to try to cut weight in other places.”

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However, she said, using high-density batteries, which the Lion uses, does more good for optimizing the range than trying to get the lightest build possible.

Working with the electric power train will be a new experience for the company, but Hodgdon said the design is comparable to work it has done in the past. Vita and BarromeodeSilva intentionally maintained the style and design features of a conventionally powered dayboat to help customers move to electric without compromising their boating experience.

While other electric boat companies incorporate “wacky” futuristic design features, Hodgdon said that’s not the approach taken for the Lion.

“The way that Vita approached it is there’s a reason that people enjoy the boats that they enjoy, so instead of trying to completely change it up, let’s keep it like a conventional boat, but just make it electric,” she said.

Hodgdon is in the early stages of the build now at its Boothbay location. The first boat is expected to be completed sometime next year. Trahair said the Lion will be available for purchase directly from Vita in the U.S. and Europe.


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