When In Time Yachts was asked by a client to customise a commuter boat for electric propulsion, they found the commission problematic. After all, despite continual development in battery technology, modern battery banks are still large and heavy and most existing hulls are poorly balanced for such applications. When they pointed this out, the customer redefined the request and instead gave them a ‘blank canvas’ commission to design and build a boat specifically optimised for that application; something light, fast and efficient that would make the very best use of electric power. The result of that is the Merione 22 Light Cruiser.
Though powered by Torqeedo’s Deep Blue 80R outboard, this “multifunctional novelty boat”, as it is described by its designers, is remarkably versatile. It is compatible not just with electric outboards but with hybrid units, inboard drives and conventional outboard motors – and the Merione’s internal configuration is similarly flexible.
Conceived by Pekka Vahtera, it features a long rectangular cockpit with bench seating around its entire periphery, plus a twin console that invites you through a central partition to a deepset forward space. Up here, a guardrail and stepping point enable easy disembarkation and although it tapers quite substantially towards the forepeak, that’s precisely as you would expect of a platform designed for running efficiency. Of course, there’s no doubt that the test craft has all the hallmarks of an open day boat, but if that’s not for you, its modular structure also means you can retrospectively modify it with a forward cabin, usefully enhancing its longer term relevance.
Pleasant though the deck layout might be, however, the really remarkable thing about the Merione is the hull. Designed by another Pekka (namely, Pekka Eivola), the core idea was to create a vessel that could operate effectively on a combination of modest electric power and heavyweight battery banks and it shows. For a start, the directional tracking is superb. There’s not a hint of the off-plane corkscrewing you so often encounter with conventional planing craft; none of that tedious over-correction as you pivot your way along a channel like a rudderless soap dish. Instead, our passage through the region’s speed-restricted zones requires virtually no steering input at all.
Better still, once you start to increase the pace, there’s really no perceptible hump to obstruct your progress or obscure your view. Even at between seven and ten knots, where most planing boats would be pointing to the skies, heaving their bulk over their own hump and burning fuel hand over fist, the Merione runs, flat, quiet and serene, with precisely the same user-friendly attitude as she exhibits at two knots. There must of course be a transition to the plane at some point in the range, but it’s by no means one you can perceive without careful observation of the waterline.
As you would expect of a lightweight electric boat, the pick-up from a standstill is also pretty rapid and the lateral stability, like the directional tracking and the running attitude, is outstanding, whether you’re flat-out or virtually at rest. In short, this is such an outstanding hull, with such wildly differing characteristics to those of a mainstream planing vessel, it makes you wonder why we so frequently put up with less.
But does it really make sense?
Now as ever, much of the value of electric propulsion still depends on your usage. For 12-hour a day water taxis, it’s great; for 50-hour a year leisure boaters, it’s not. But as legislation is increasingly informed by public concern for the environment, the merits or otherwise of electric propulsion go beyond a simple analysis of outlay and running costs to encompass your choice of operating regions. There are an increasing number of lakes throughout Europe where internal combustion is outlawed, so whether you like it or not, if you want to go powerboating, you have to get on board with electric propulsion.
In terms of the electric boating experience, speeds still tend to be modest and prices still tend to be high, but if we alter our ideas about a day out on the water, that needn’t represent the ruination of our fun. On the contrary, with no CO or particulate emissions, zero fuel usage and a radical reduction in propulsive noise, there’s a great deal to like. And when you test a boat this well judged, this usable and this user-friendly in a place as pristine as Finland, there is something even more attractive about quiet conversation, the sound of lapping waves and the knowledge that you’re doing your bit to preserve the water, the air and the wildlife.
For the time being, the Merione 22LC feels very much like a prototype test platform for the Torqeedo system. The finish all feels a bit ‘trial and error’, but that’s often to be expected as a boat makes its way from the theoretical thought processes of the designer’s page to the harsh light of an operational environment. If it’s to succeed as a recreational runabout, that finish will certainly need to be uprated on subsequent production models, but whichever way you look at it, this is an elegant, lightweight, six-man day boat with propulsive flexibility and the option of an overnighting cabin. The fact that it also happens to be the most perfectly mannered electric boat package I’ve ever helmed makes it a very tantalising foretaste of how satisfying the future of electric recreation could be.
Forward cabin with double berth
Removable cabin roof
Fresh water tank with pump
Chemical toilet and grey water tank
Pantry with sink, 35-litre fridge and stove
Navigator ́s seat
Epoxy-impregnated wood surfaces
In Time Merione 22LC specifications
LOA: 6.9 m
Beam: 2.24 m
Weight: 450 kg
Max power: 100 hp
Max people: six
Engine: Torqeedo Deep Blue 80R
Battery: 32 kWh BMW Lithium-ion
Engine system weight: 460 kg
Continuous power: 50 kW
Petrol equivalent: 80 hp
Max speed: 25 knots
Range: 15-60 Nm
Contact: In-Time Yachts