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First American-Built Electric Passenger Vessels Enter Service

electric passenger vessel
Image courtesy Maid of the Mist

By The Maritime Executive 10-05-2020 10:40:51

On Tuesday, the Maid of the Mist tour operation at Niagara Falls will welcome its first passengers aboard all-electric tour boats powered by renewable energy. The zero-emission ferries - named the James V. Glynn and the Nikola Tesla - are the first all-electric vessels of their kind built in the U.S., with power drawn from a high-capacity battery pack. 

“The launch of the James V. Glynn and Nikola Tesla, the first passenger vessels of their kind in the United States, will markedly enhance the visitor experience, providing a smooth, quiet trip to and from the base of Niagara Falls,” said Maid of the Mist President Christopher M. Glynn. “With no engine noise, our guests will be amazed by the sounds of nature and the roar of the falls they will hear from the decks of our vessels.”

Image courtesy NYS Parks

According to propulsion systems supplier ABB, the James V. Glynn and Nikola Tesla are each powered by a pair of battery packs divided across two catamaran hulls for redundancy. The batteries allow the electric propulsion motors to reach an output of up to about 530 horsepower. Since they operate at Niagara Falls, the historical home of hydroelectric power, they are charged using locally produced renewable electricity. The full operation is emissions-free, and charging takes only seven minutes during disembarkation and boarding. 

Their entry into service drew high-level attention in New York State, where the shift to renewable energy is a top policy priority. 

“Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world unique to Western New York and Maid of the Mist has given people from all walks of life an up-close look at its majesty for more than 150 years,” said New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “This new fleet of all-electric vessels will protect the health of our waterways and environment, and is another example of New York State building back better, smarter and greener.”