‘E-motion’ brings electric powered boating to Lake Tahoe

The 20-foot Tender 06, “e-motion,” zips across Lake Tahoe. The sportboat usually resides in Sausalito, Calif., but was at Homewood High & Dry Marina during August.
Photo courtesy of Scott Ruck |

Tahoe has long been a favorite playground for boating enthusiasts, but over the last month and a half, one boat in particular has been turning heads around the lake’s western shores.

Its sleek, custom shape automatically separates it from any other boat on the water, but what goes on inside its hull is what really makes the Designboats Tender 06 sportboat — named “e-motion” by its owner — special.

The 20-foot sportboat doesn’t depend on a traditional combustion engine, instead it’s electrically propelled across the lake without any emissions by a Torgeedo Deep Blue 80 — an 80 horsepower equivalent electric outboard produced by Torgeedo Gmbh of Germany.

With instant responsiveness from the throttle, the boat zips up to 30 mph without any lag. The Tender 06 can accelerate so quickly that there’s a button for “slow mode”, which remaps the throttle so it doesn’t apply full power — a feature helpful in maneuvering around the dock.

While boating at top speed, the deafening sound of a combustion engine is replaced by the quiet whir of gears and sound of air blowing past, resulting in a unique experience of moving across the water at a high rate with enough quiet to hold a conversation.

The Tender 06, “e-motion,” first came to Tahoe last August, and is owned by Herbert Schlafter, of Zurich, Switzerland, and Sausalito, Calif., where he usually keeps the boat.

Ruckmarine Electric Boats, of Truckee, facilitated the process of bringing the electric boat to Tahoe for the Concours d’Elegance boat show, after which the Tender 06 was housed at Homewood High and Dry Marina for another month in order to allow prospective buyers or anyone interested a chance to check it out and take a ride.

Scott Ruck, owner of Ruckmarine Electric Boats, said the company has been delivering a variety of electric sportboats to Tahoe over the past five years, and is focused on bringing clean, zero-emission, zero-effluent electric boats to the lake.

While rare on Lake Tahoe, electric boats are much more common in Europe, according to Ruck, with several European lakes now restricting access exclusively to electric boats.

During the Councours d’Elegance show, the owner of Designboats and builder of the Tender 06, Peter Minder, made the trip from Europe to be on hand for demonstrational outings on the lake.

During that time, Ruck said that Minder explained several European waterfront businesses are in competition to provide dockside charging for electric boats in order to attract customers, creating an environment where boaters charge up over lunch or dinner, and then head out for more time on the water. It’s an idea Ruck said he envisions taking hold along the shores of Lake Tahoe with its many restaurants and businesses.

As an example of battery usage, Ruck said a high speed cruise from Homewood Marina to Tahoe City for lunch and back, with four people on board the Tender 06, would require 2.5 hours to fully recharge the batteries.

The Tender 06 holds five people, and its BMW i3 batteries allow for several hours of cruising without a charge.

The boats also don’t require a charging station like electric cars. Instead they are equipped with everything required for charging on board, so the only thing needed is an outlet. The Tender 06 is configured for charging at 240 volts but can also be charged at 120 volts.

After a simple charging process, the electric boat is ready to hit the water, producing zero emissions on a lake where water clarity is one of the top concerns.

Another benefit of the Tender 06 is when it comes to hull inspections and invasive species.

“It’s much less complicated than a gas powered boat,” said Ruck. “The whole cooling system is much simpler. Inside of a combustion engine you’ve got all kinds of areas where muscles can accumulate.”

At first glance, one might take the boat for a concept sportsboat, but the Tender 06 is a production boat, which can be purchased with a full warranty and support from Ruckmarine, Designboats, and Torgeedo. The price of a Tender 06 is roughly $150,000.

Designboats also builds a Tender 08, which is 26 feet and has dual-inboard electric drive systems. The Tendor 08 can carry up to eight people.

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