May 24, 2023
By Jeff Butler
When swimmer Merle Liivand made her 5th Guinness World Record swim across Miami’s Biscayne Bay on April 15th, Canadian boat manufacturer Voltari Electric was there with her every minute of her 14 and a quarter hour marathon.
Liivand, also known as ‘Merle the Mermaid’ because she swims using a mono fin, is a tireless conservationist swimming to raise awareness about plastic pollution in water and the damage humans are doing to oceans. Along the way in her 32-mile water marathon she collected 20 pounds of plastic trash and handed it off to the crew of the all-electric Voltari 260 guide boat.
Voltari co-Founder Cam Heaps said “We were very flattered to be asked to accompany Merle. In electric boating, it doesn’t matter what kind of boat you’re talking about, a performance boat, fishing boat, sailboat, yacht – there’s a love for the waterways. So, to be able to be a small part of what Merle is doing and be part of improving the marine environment is really exciting.”
When talking about the Voltari 260, one is definitely talking about a performance boat. It is one of the highest powered electric boats on the market with a 550kW (740hp) motor and can hit a speed of almost 100 km/h.
Of particular interest to readers of CY Onboard is that the Voltari is born, bred and built in Canada.
Co-founders Cam Heaps and Tim Markou are from Ontario and grew up fascinated by speedboats. Cam’s ‘day job’ was founding and running Steam Whistle, growing it into one of the country’s largest and most successful independent breweries. His ‘passion project’ was modifying and building speedboat hulls of carbon fibre to obtain maximum speed and performance.
Meanwhile, as Heaps was doing this, Tim had set out to revive Pantera, a manufacturer of cigarette boats that was part of the legendary Miami Vice/Thunderboat Row fraternity. It had fallen on difficult times after the 2008 recession and eventually sought bankruptcy protection.
When the two men were first introduced, they realized that the Pantera hulls built using the carbon fibre expertise and techniques Cam had developed would mean weight savings of about 1,000 kgs per hull.
They worked on an arrangement with Pantera to purchase the original molds and other intellectual property…and then their ‘eureka moment’ arrived.
In the summer of 2019 Cam went to see Montreal’s LTS Marine, who had worked on the world’s first electric waterski boat way back in 2011. They were now refitting fibreglass watersport boats with electric motors and battery systems.
Cam went out for a spin with LTS’ Bruno Tellier and Jean-Louis Lavigne and knew immediately that he would never look back. “The second I put down the throttle…the boat accelerates in a way you’ve never seen. No rumbling noise, no smell of smoke and burnt fuel. My passion for combustion boats ended that day.”
With the proven racing hull as the starting point and the weight savings of the carbon fibre dedicated to batteries, the Voltari 260 combines significant range with the ability to hit thrilling speeds when the urge arises.
There are six battery packs strategically placed throughout the hull for a combined 142 kilowatt hours of energy available. In practical terms, the company says that means a full day’s use for most average boaters: a range of up to 65 kilometres at a cruising speed of 48 km/h.
As they also point out, “boating range is not as simple as looking at linear distance, like with cars. Most boaters go from place to place, moving through slow-down zones, they stop to swim, anchor at a beach, raft up with other boats, or perhaps even hit a restaurant or friends dock for a few hours.”
The Miami swim shows how little energy is actually consumed at low speeds and how far an electric boat can go. This isn’t the first record for the Voltari 260, either. In January it went from Key Largo Florida to Bimini, Bahamas – 146 kilometres – on a single charge.
It’s nice to see a Canadian entry in the emerging world of premium electric boats, where European manufacturers like Candela and X Shore are the ones that often make the headlines.
With hull construction facilities in Merrickville, Ontario (about 75 km from Ottawa on the Rideau Canal) and powertrain engineering and battery manufacturing in Montréal, Voltari has opened an office in Fort Lauderdale, where Heaps says they are enthusiastically “planting the flag in the busiest boat market in the world”.
“We created the Voltari 260 to provide freedom to explore open waters on long run times. We are all beyond proud of what we have accomplished, and what we are going to accomplish as a team in the coming years”.
Jeff Butler is based in Toronto and is the Editor/Publisher of plugboats.com, the international website covering everything electric boats and boating. He is also President of the Electric Boat Association of Canada and is busy preparing to bring electric motor boat racing and exhibitions to Toronto Harbour in 2023 for the first Toronto Solar Boat Races.