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Electric boats starting to make waves on Maine's working waterfronts

The first electric boat for a harbor is being used in Islesboro and more are on the way, according to the Island Institute.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Maine's working waterfronts may soon be able to utilize all-electric outboard motors for small boats used by harbormasters and aquaculture farms.

The Island Institute, in partnership with Pendleton Yacht Yard and Flux Marine, launched the first electric workboat in Islesboro this summer.

Gabe Pendleton said it was a no-brainer for trying out the new EV motor.

He said his boatyard in Islesboro was already working to transition from fossil fuels by using solar power for their harbor. 

"I've been following electric boats for a while. ... Anything you can do to help a working waterfront is a plus," Pendleton said.

Pendleton brought the boat to Rockland for an event hosted by the Island Institute and took several people on tours around the harbor.

"I think this is going to have a big impact. ... People have not used a boat like this and wonder what the range and what power it has," Pendleton said.

He said the torque on the engine is strong and the improved battery life from previous trial models makes this motor ready for commercial use.

Maine Electric Boat, which is based in Biddeford, said the Flux motor can go for an hour and 30 minutes when you propel it at full throttle.

The company added at trolling speed, or 6 nautical miles per hour, it can last an entire day.

"I think climate change for me personally is a real concern, and I think electric boats seem like the wave of the future. ... Anything we can do to reduce emissions is a plus," Pendleton said.

And while the bulk of harm done to our environment through emissions comes from companies that ship across the world, along with the millions of cars used around the world, removing the emissions from several thousand boats along Maine's coast helps.

The Island Institute said a standard, 70 horsepower gas or diesel outboard motor emits 2.5 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere when pulled at full throttle for 100 hours.

That is the equivalent weight of five adult moose.

Those working on EV outboard motors said an EV motor would emit far less emissions even when charged with non-climate friendly resources.

Sam Belknap, the director of the Center of Marine Economy at the Island Institute, said they hope to double the number of EV boat motors in Maine over the next year.

"Every single harbormaster in Maine could use a boat like this," Belknap said. "We could have an entirely electric fleet."

But there are limitations. 

Maine Electric Boat said building an electric motor for a boat such as a lobster boat would require a battery stronger than what is currently on the market, or an external power generator.

"We could do it tomorrow if we had an unlimited budget... but from a practical standpoint I think it's a number of years, and I think there will have to be some power generators," Matt Tarpey, co-founder of Maine Electric Boat, said.

But Tarpey also said there have been large improvements in EV boats just in the last year. He said the Flux motor used by Pendleton was just a concept months ago.

"Back then, we had something like that in our mind, we were slowly building toward that," Tarpey said. "It really is a different world."

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