The late summer sun was falling behind the horizon as we pulled into Newport Harbor aboard the hybrid-powered Greenline 48. A modern motoryacht silently gliding toward the “City by the Sea,” it captured the attention of all the sailors in the harbor as it danced through the crowded anchorage toward our slip for the night.
Many people in the industry were skeptical of switching seamlessly between diesel and electric power—including yours truly. Silent sunset cruises were a sweet party trick, but would there really be enough demand for zero-emission propulsion from our boats?
This first experience aboard the Greenline was in 2015. Four short years later, Hinckley stole the Newport show with their surprise unveiling of the fully electric Dasher. Powered by Torqeedo inboards and BMW’s i3 lithium-ion batteries, Dasher boasted a Michael Peters hull and an exceptional ride. A $545,000 price tag and a range that left something to be desired were strong headwinds for the cutting-edge carbon fiber craft, yet it opened many eyes to what was possible.
The summer Dasher debuted, the team and I borrowed a small Torqeedo electric outboard for an extended test. As is my nature, I was again skeptical. My colleagues and I still laugh at how that early outboard, which emitted such a high pitch that it earned the nickname “the blender,” won us over during the summer with its impressive torque and simple (cost-free) recharging. Little by little, my cold heart began to thaw towards electric propulsion.
Fast forward to the most recent Newport boat show. Resting a few feet from where Dasher debuted sat another craft that is going all-in on an electrified future: X Shore’s Eelex 8000. I’d seen this brand overseas but chalked them up as another flash-in-the-pan company. Seeing it on my home turf made me do a double take. Learning that the Swedish company was planting a permanent flag stateside with a North American sales office in Newport raised my second eyebrow.
I told X Shore’s North American Head of Sales that I was curious to test the angular-looking 8000 down the road. “Maybe we can chat about a day to come and test the boat?” I asked.
“She’s on the demo dock and ready when you are,” he replied with brazen confidence.
Now to be fair, I would test a swan-shaped paddleboat if it meant a break from the boat show crowds. An electric boat from foreign shores? My team and I jumped at the chance for an afternoon ride.
Stepping aboard the cork decking, I knew we were in for a unique experience. As we signed waivers, Field Operations Manager Will Greene explained that his Garmin watch served double duty as a stylish time piece and kill switch for the boat. At first blush I noted that this was a slick trick. Only after I opened up the throttle on Narragansett Bay, via a rotating puck in place of traditional throttles, and felt the instant acceleration that only comes from electric propulsion while looking back at the stylish yet very open transom, did I fully appreciate how useful a permanent kill switch really is.
The boat, which you can read more about in Carly Sisson’s review, was agile, sporty and for lack of better words, flat-out fun to drive. Greene explained that when it comes to electric boats, once you have the hull it’s all about software. “We’re a technology team, a team of programmers building a boat, not a boatbuilder trying to be a technology company,” he said.
The company has ambitious goals for the next few years. They want to build upwards of 800 boats a year, further develop their line and offer customization as well. Ever the skeptic, I’m interested to see if they can deliver on such lofty goals. What I do believe for sure is that greatness has never been achieved without bold action.