Minnesota company building electric pontoons

June 05, 2019 11:10 PM

You've probably seen cars with electric motors - like a Tesla. 

But can the same idea work with boats?


A Minnesota company, ELUX Marine, is trying to find out. The company is building luxury electric pontoons.

"Well, the first reaction is 'What is that,'" said Howard Root, the company's CEO. "You know they look at it, they don't quite get it because it's a fiberglass pontoon. 

"So it doesn't look anything like the normal aluminum pontoons."

There's no engine noise or gasoline smell because ... well ... there's no engine.

"It's really a radical change in boating," Root said. "We've gone from an aluminum pontoon to a fiberglass, electric pontoon."

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"So we're cruising at about 4 miles per hour," Root said during a ride on Lake Minnetonka. 

"At this speed we can go 10 hours on the battery charge. And then you'd recharge it overnight plugging it into a standard outlet."

There are other electric boats, but most have outboard motors that take up space. The ELUX Marine pontoon has an internal battery power-pack and electric motor.

"So we designed our own drive-line that went under the boat completely," ELUX Marine Chief Design Officer Bart Jones said. "And that allowed us to open up the whole back end of the boat."

The pontoon is 24-feet long, holds 12 people and only needs about 10 inches of water. ELUX Marine designed it to look like an Italian speed boat, but with the practicality of a pontoon.

"Very sleek lines, very simple color schemes, but very functional layout," Root said. "So we've got the built-in cooler and trash. We've got the flip-up seats. We've got a great Simrad navigation system. So it gives you that kind of creature features but it doesn't wow you with a lot of ostentatious graphics."

The boat's top speed is 14 miles per hour.

"It's as fast as you want to go with a cocktail in your hand," Root said.

Jones said electric boats can go faster, but you would need more batteries and you would have to recharge it more often.  

"It's harder to get boats that go fast for a long time," he said. "So people can build fast electronic boats, but you'll get 15 minutes of run time. And they're extremely expensive." 

The company said the electric pontoons are unsinkable. The tubes are sealed inside fiberglass, which also means there's no risk of invasive species because nothing drains out of the boat.

Root said ELUX Marine has built four pontoons so far and sold them all. 

"So the list price is $85,000, but for the first year, for those four boats, we're giving a $10,000 discount," he said. "It's really white-glove service. We'll deliver the boat and we pick it up at the end of the year. If there's a service, we'll come out there. We want to know how these boats operate because it's our first year on the market."

And getting the boat to market has created Minnesota jobs.

"We do all the assembly in Mayer," said ELUX Marine Sales Manager Mike Rollo. "But the fiberglass is done in Grove City. The upholstery is done in New Ulm. The trailers are built in Clara City, and all the fabrics for the Bimini's and the covers are done in Fergus Falls."

Not surprisingly, there's more money spent on boats in the Land of 10,000 Lakes than just about any other state in the country.

So is this the future of watercraft?

When electric cars came out, people were skeptical, but now they're everywhere. ELUX Marine believes that will happen with boats too.

"We're going to do the pontoon for the next couple of years in this style," Root said. "And then we might take it into another direction. I'm not sure yet, but right now its pontoons."

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Kevin Doran

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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