New Niagara Falls electric ferries have set sail!

Two Niagara Falls electric ferries launch a new era Tuesday, October 6, when they start taking passengers right up to (and back from) the thundering waters at the base of the international tourist attraction without using a single drop of fuel.

The commissioning of the ferries was first announced in May of 2019 and they were scheduled to be in service about this time last year, but ran into delays. Better late than never, though, and 2020 is definitely a year when we can all get some joy out of celebrating good things like this!

The Nikola Tesla and James V. Glynn

The two catamarans are charged after each trip to 80% capacity by a system from ABB, who worked on the landmark project with the Maid of the Mist operating company, the New York State Parks and the New York Power Authority.

One of the boats is named Nikola Tesla, for obvious reasons, while the other, the James V. Glynn, is named after a man who worked for Maid of the Mist for 70 years, most recently as its chairman.

Niagara Falls electric ferries veteran James V. Glynn on the ferry named after himMr. Glynn joined Maid of the Mist in 1950 as a ticket seller and purchased the company in 1971. Now 86 years old, he was at the private launching ceremony on Monday and told NPR (National Public Radio) “My first job at the Maid was having a palm of pamphlets. I gave you a pamphlet and a ticket and I asked for a dollar. The ticket was 90 cents for the boat and ten cents for the elevator.”

The Maid of the Mist is one of North America’s longest-running tourist attractions, first launched in 1846. Having been on the trip myself, I can tell you it is an incredible experience. You board the boats in the calm waters downstream from the Falls, then slowly make your way toward them as the sound grows louder and louder.

Within a few minutes, you feel you are almost close enough to reach out of the boat and touch the 680,000 gallons of water falling every second, yelling to be heard by your fellow passengers and it’s then that you begin to wonder if the boat has enough power to move away or if it will get sucked into the maelstrom and smashed to smithereens.

Niagara Falls electric ferries perfect for the demands

Electric ferries are actually perfect for the trip because they have high torque motors which deliver power instantly. On the diesel boats, you can feel the ferry shaking as the engines build up enough thrust to pull away from the Falls.

The Nikola Tesla and James V. Glynn replace two diesel-fueled boats – Maid of the Mist VI and Maid of the Mist VII. The first has already been retired while the company will hold on to Maid of the Mist VII for the short term as they transition to electric.

The first guests will be able to board the new electric vessels at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6.

The Maids of the Mist are just two examples of how electric ferries are being adopted all over the world. For more reading, here is a link to all of the stories about electric ferries on Plugboats, but here are some highlights:

Bangkok and Thailand have more than 200 electric ferries planned 

Greece’s first electric ferry  commissioned  to service  the Gulf of Corinth

In Seattle and Vancouver, the world’s second and fourth busiest ferry services commission hybrid electric ferries

E-Ferry Ellen, the world’s largest electric ferry, completes her maiden voyage.

And, of course, India’s solar electric ferry the Aditya, wins the inaugural Gustave Trouvé Awards for Excellence in Electric Boats and Boating.

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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Photographs by Michael Mroziak, WBFO NPR

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