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VIDEO: Builder debuts 18-foot electric-powered catamaran

An innovative boat that began as a discussion five years ago at the Miami International Boat Show has come to fruition and stands out as an example of effective use of small-engine electric power.

The new Light 18 from Wing Systems uses Torqeedo electric motors to power its hydrodynamic hulls. The Light 18 made its debut in April at Charleston Race Week in South Carolina.

“We went through two years of prototypes, design and development,” Wing Systems director of special projects Skip Barker said. “We designed it from the keel up; the Torqeedo motor was part of the design from the very beginning.”

The Light 18, an acronym for Low-Impact Green Hull Technology, is a center console design with hydrodynamic catamaran hulls. It is designed to take advantage of Torqeedo's high-efficiency electric outboards without sacrificing maneuverability, stability and speed. The principle of the design will allow the builder to create other sizes and models, Barker said.

Equipped with two Torqeedo 9.9-hp motors and four lithium batteries, the Light 18 has a top speed of 15 knots and a cruising speed of 10 to 12 knots. At 6 to 8 knots it has a range of as much as 10 hours. Gasoline-free operation makes the Light 18 particularly useful for environmentally sensitive applications, such as water quality management and reservoir maintenance. It has been available as a crew boat on a volunteer basis at sailing races and regattas. Its silence and speed make it an ideal coaching launch, Barker said.

"Making its debut at Charleston Race Week as a media platform, the Light 18 was quick, nimble and able to get close to the action without disturbing the sailors with wake, noise and exhaust," Torqeedo president Steve Trkla said. "Torqeedo's quiet electric motors allow for easy communication on the water, so they're ideal for safety vessels or coaching boats."

Each hull has more than 9 square feet of planing surface. Powerboats have tremendous trouble between 8 and 12 knots, Barker said. On the Light 18, the displacement-to-planing transition is made almost instantly, he said. “That’s what these hulls do magnificently.”

Next up, Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Wing Systems is designing a vessel for the higher-voltage Torqeedo 30-hp and 80-hp engines.

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