For generations, throngs of tourists sailing the Maid of the Mist fleet beneath Niagara Falls have experienced the roar of the cataract, the splash of the river – and the fog of diesel fumes.
Scratch the diesel fumes from future Maid of the Mist vessels following the venerable tour company’s Friday announcement that it will launch North America’s first all-electric passenger boats in September. Though Maid of the Mist began ferrying tourists in steam-powered vessels in 1846 and switched to diesels in 1955, the new generation will mark the first time zero-emission craft will ply the Lower Niagara.
Maid of the Mist Corp. is absorbing all costs, but the Friday announcement at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center nevertheless attracted a slew of state officials – including Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and acting Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid – to link the new boats to the Cuomo administration’s push for clean energy. The switch to electric energy coincides with the state’s drive for a carbon-free environment by 2040.
“We are now poised for the future with this clean energy approach,” Hochul said. “This makes sense. We are the stewards of our environment and keepers of our future even now.”
The Glynn family of Niagara Falls has owned Maid of the Mist since 1971, and President Christopher M. Glynn on Friday promised a “smooth, quiet ride” for the 1.6 million tourists boarding his company’s boats each year. He explained the diesel-powered Maid of the Mist VI and VII boats will be retired once the new arrivals are fully assembled at the company docks just down river from the falls, and launched in September.
The catamaran-style craft are now nearing completion at Burger Boat Co. in Manitowoc, Wisc., he said, and will operate silently with little or no vibration. Each will use lithium-ion battery power that takes seven minutes to recharge after each trip. Glynn called it part of his family’s commitment to the business that his father, James, joined as a ticket seller in 1950.
The new vessels are the first all-electric, emission-free built in the United States. They are powered by technology pioneered by ABB, the European technology giant that developed the battery packs split evenly between the two catamaran hulls.