Solar-powered pontoon builder opens for business
On Aug. 21, the Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company opened its Rome, N.Y.-based boat building facility with one market-ready product: A solar-powered electric boat model titled the Loon.
The Loon is an electrically powered 22-foot pontoon with solar panels lining the roof, which offers a “free fill-up” while the boat is at rest. Currently, its range with a full single-celled battery is 35 miles; however, that is dependent on how much sun is available to contribute, said Montgomery Gisborne, president of the company.
Originally a Canadian firm, Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company moved to New York state to better serve its target market in the United States, which is much larger than Canada and features year-round warm weather in regions, according to Gisborne.
“I recognized early on that the Loon was an American market item and made plans early to move production south,” he said.
The boat builder also received about $300,000 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Gisborne said the idea behind the Loon originated in 2002 when he purchased his first electric boat, a 13-foot Eldebo pontoon, while living on electric-only Tamarack Lake in Ontario, Canada. Partnering the electric propulsion with solar power seemed only logical to Gisborne.
“When do you go boating? You go typically when the sun is out, so why not trap that energy?” Gisborne said.
Before bringing the boat to the open market, Gisborne said he and his family tested his first model on a six-day excursion in 2005, which he deemed a success.
Today’s Loon is a pontoon with a twin-displacement hull. Gisborne said many people prefer the pontoon due to its stability and easily accessible, larger deck. From a business perspective, Gisborne said he hopes to tap into the current popularity of the segment.
“I believe that these are the general characteristics which attract people to pontoons, optimization for the human, not speed,” he said.
The Loon is currently ready for sale and distribution, and Gisborne said he is in the process of building a dealer network. The boat builder also offers a program where people who are passionate about the environmentally friendly model can sell the Loon from their private dock.
“We are delighted to give these motivated people an opportunity to help this worthy [environmental] movement along and make some money in the process,” Gisborne said.
Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company currently has four employees, but Gisborne plans to double that number by the end of the year. Also in the plans is the Osprey – a 32-foot, 30-passenger pontoon, which is powered identically to the Loon. The Osprey was previously offered as an aluminum model, but Gisborne said they are redesigning it to be made from fiberglass.