Niagara Falls’ Maid of The Mist going electric

One of the most incredible boat rides on the planet will be experienced in a ferry powered by electric motors in new versions of the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boats that take visitors to get drenched at the foot of thundering Niagara Falls.

The Maid of the Mist boats have been plying the lower Niagara gorge since 1846 and now take about 1.6 million visitors per year literally to the bottom of the Falls where it almost seems like the water is coming down straight on top of you.

First all-electric zero-emission passenger vessel built in US

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced yesterday (May 3) that the Maid of the Mist company is preparing to launch the first two new all-electric, zero-emission passenger vessels constructed in the United States. The catamaran-style vessels will be introduced to the fleet in the 2019 season.

I’ve been on the existing diesels-powered boats both as a young child child and as an adult parent. The roar of the waters is unforgettable, the spray is falling down everywhere, and just when it seems that the ferry and you and all of the passengers will be sucked into the turbulence of the undertow the motors add to the thunder and move you safely away.

It is one of those experiences where it always seems that you’ve escaped near catastrophe, even though it is done dozens of times every day. It will be even more thrilling to have the boats pull away using (comparatively) silent electric motors.

The video below gives some idea of the experience.

Frequent short trips are perfect for electric ferries

The ferry rides of the Maid of the Mist are the ideal situation for battery powered boats. After each trip to the falls, which lasts about 15 minutes, the system developed and supplied by ABB allows the boats’ batteries to recharged for seven minutes as the next set of passengers boards. The lithium-ion batteries connect to an onshore charging system, enabling sustainable operation with maximum reliability. On shore, the batteries charge back up to about 80 percent capacity, allowing for maximum efficiency and battery life.

It seems fitting that electric boats are finally coming to the place where hydro electricity literally transformed the growth of industry in eastern North America at the beginning of the 20th century. The Adam Beck Generating Station on the Canadian side of the falls was built in 1917 (it is still there) and there are now 7 stations on both sides of the river that have a capacity of 4.6 million kilowatts (2.4M in US and 2.2 in Canada) and supply one quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario. (Total population of 34 million)

Coming into service in September 2019

Designed by Propulsion Data Services, the new totally integrated vessels are currently under construction by Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisc.  In mid-May, the modules will be transported to Niagara Falls and lowered onto the Maid of the Mist dry dock and maintenance facility for assembly.  Following completion of construction, launch and certification, the new vessels will be placed into service in mid-September. Maid of the Mist VI (1990) and Maid of the Mist VII (1997), will be removed from service when the new vessels begin operating.

 

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