Unlike battery-powered cars, electric boats haven’t much made their way onto the scene, despite the earliest model having appeared in the 1830s, roughly the same time as the first electric car. Yet, a sea change may finally be on the way as the first generation of zero-emissions, commercially available electric boats hits the water. Aside from eschewing fossil fuel, these newcomers offer easy maintenance, boast lower operational costs and allow for remote trouble-shooting and software updates.
But the most striking common denominator across these three vessels? The smart, devil-in-the-detail designs.
The $450,000 Voltari 260 is designed around a performance hull that made the Pantera brand an offshore legend. But this boat, made from 100 percent carbon fiber, is 2,200 pounds lighter than a conventional fiberglass layup. Two electric motors connected to a single drive, and six battery packs with 142 kwh of total capacity, add to the boat’s total weight of 7,000 pounds. Peak output hits 550 kw (the equivalent of 740 hp) and you feel it—immediately—heading out into the Atlantic. With 995 ft lbs of torque, the motors delivered blistering acceleration and the deep-V hull kept everyone dry as the boat skipped across the chop. The Konrad outdrive and power steering added ambient noise to what is billed as a “silent” ride, but you can speak without yelling—something you can’t do with a big outboard on the stern.
The helm has everything you’d expect on a premium 26-footer: trim tabs, performance throttles and twin 17-inch Garmin screens that display navigation charts and customized cruising data. Fit and finish are first-rate, with a flawless carbon-fiber hull and cockpit (some areas left artistically exposed) set off by the hand-stitched Alcantara upholstery. Designer J. David Weiss’s black-and-gold topside is intentionally flashy without crossing into tacky, capped by a manta ray–inspired hardtop. And buyers can make their own color choices. Range anxiety is natural on a boat that claims a 60 mph top end, but Voltari says, in ideal conditions, a speed of 30 knots delivers a 35-mile range—a typical distance for the average day cruise.
Hacker-Craft 27 Special Report
The Voltari’s alter ego, Hacker-Craft’s 27 Special Sport, is a modern mahogany runabout with a 1920s aesthetic that sets the standard for the luxury lake boat. The wooden boat builder partnered with Orlando-based Ingenity—a specialist in creating electric marine propulsion platforms—to create a state-of-art system for the 27. It certainly works as we found out on a recent run. In calm water, instant torque glues you to the soft, white (aka Prodigy Cream) upholstery as the boat streaks from zero to 34 mph in seconds, before automatically tapering off to 30 mph to keep the system from overheating as part of its thermal-management controls.
It’s hard to pick which is more seductive: the beautiful pinstriped-mahogany topsides or the guitar-thumping sound of the wood hull plying the water. The 220 kw motor is paired with two batteries, providing 126 kwh of total stored power. The 27 Special Sport tracked straight, turned crisply and exuded a Gatsby-esque refinement in stark contrast to the plastic boats scattered around Orlando’s Lake Conway. At $695,000, the model is $172,000 more than the same version fitted with a 400 hp Ilmor gas inboard. But combining advanced technology with this level of craftsmanship, without compromising performance, makes this a one-of-a-kind day boat.
X Shore Eelex 8000
Cruising Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway calls for a different design, which you find with X Shore’s Eelex 8000. The Swedish-built, 26-foot center console has a minimalist open deck with a high bow and open stern, and the cockpit can be easily converted via modular furniture set on tracks. Function (plenty of storage) meets sustainability (the deck and gunwales are made of cork), with occasional flourishes such as the foredeck’s handhold, sculpted in the form of an electric eel.
The $329,000 Eelex, powered by an electric motor and two batteries with a total 126 kwh, offers a ride that’s electrifying in every sense. Like the aforementioned models, acceleration up the power curve—in this case, to 34.5 mph—is breathtakingly fast and satisfyingly quiet. Just the sound of wind and waves. After some time at the top end it self-corrects to 23 mph. Which makes sense, since the open design is more about sociability than speed. Range is a limiting factor, of course, but the boat can cover 90 nautical miles at 8 mph. Plus, there’s a get-home feature whenever battery life drops to 10 percent, delivering 10 nautical miles at a crawl.