Plugboats: Ninth annual Monaco races showcase latest electric boat innovations

Plugboats Vita Lion

Aug 10, 2022

The Monaco Energy Boat Challenge (MEBC) took place in the principality July 8 to 13 and shows how far the technology of electric boating has come and give some hints about what lies ahead.

Originally the Monaco Solar Boat Challenge, the event has changed the solar reference to ‘Energy’ to reflect and include the full diversity of new propulsion options. The solar boats are still there, in their own Solar Class, but are now joined by the Energy Class and Open Sea Class.

In Solar Class the boats can only use the electricity drawn from panels on the decks of each entry.

Plugboats Athens Boat Energy Class





An Energy Class entry

For the Energy Class the host Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM) supplies one design hulls to university teams from around the world who then devise their own propulsion system using whichever energy source they deem appropriate.

Jérémie Lagarrigue is the President of MEBC Technical Jury and also a member of the Energy Observer team which is sailing a converted Canadian trimaran around the world using only the energy from solar panels, automated wingsails and hydrogen harvested from the water it travels through. “The solar boats were a great beginning,” he says, “and now the Energy Class promotes any kind of energy like hydrogen and electric storage. But we can also have new ideas like storing the energy of the compressed air and kinetic energy.”

Races for the Solar and Energy divisions are held within Monaco’s Port Hercules harbour, while the Open Sea Class boats race offshore and are made up largely of entries from commercial electric and hydrogen boat manufacturers.

Sunflare Solar TeamSunflare Solar Team

In addition to the races – Slalom, Endurance and ‘Championship’ head-to-head speed competitions, all of the participating boats must present their engineering solutions and other specifications in a series of daily ‘TechTalks’. The TechTalks have been a part of the event since the beginning and now provide an invaluable time line of the progress of non-fossil fuel boating.

The first years of the event were comprised of only the races and TechTalks, but with the growing interest in low and zero carbon boating as well as the number of researchers and companies developing new technologies, there are also now a series of conferences and a commercial exhibitors’ area.

The YCM was founded in 1953 by Prince Rainier and while it is probably best known for its annual yacht show and the extravagant superyachts that moor there daily, it has also been an innovator in powerboat racing from the beginning.

The Club has been led since 1984 by Rainier’s son, Prince Albert, who also created the Fondation Albert II with the mission of ‘protecting and progressing planetary health’, with a particular focus on our world’s oceans.

The Fondation is one of the main sponsors of the Energy Boat Challenge. Together with the Prince and the YCM, great pride is taken in the event being an incubator that ‘stimulates the creativity of tomorrow’s engineers and the industry to develop propulsion methods using clean energy.’

Bernard d’Alessandri, General Secretary of the YCM, says “It is very important for us to have this type of meeting, to host young engineers from different countries in the world – like Peru, India, Dubai, Indonesia – and to support and encourage their work. It is key to share the knowledge and see the progress every year and move toward new-generation yachts with less environmental impact”.

Polytechnique Montreal TeamTeam Polytechnique Montréal

This year, almost 40 teams competed from 21 countries, including Canada, with an entry in the Energy Class from the Polytechnique Montréal.

Like all entries in the Energy Class, they were supplied with a hull by the MEBC to be equipped and propelled with their own systems. Unfortunately, transporting their li-ion battery packs to Monaco was a logistics challenge they could not overcome. They were able to test everything in Montreal but for the event itself had to use a similar, but not identical battery, built in Germany. They came in a disappointing 11th, but will be back next year strengthened by the experience.

The overall Energy Class was won by a team from the University of Bologna who placed first in all of the races, Slalom, Endurance, Speed. The Sunflare Solar Team from the Netherlands won the Solar Class, coming in first in Slalom and Endurance with a team from the Switzerland’s Lausanne Polytechnic winning the Championship speed event. The Open Sea Class was won by the Vita Lion, a 34 foot battery electric sportboat that delivers a cruising speed of 22 knots and top speed of over 35 knots.

The tenth edition of the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge will take place next July. With the pace of development in the electric and hydrogen boat industry, it will be fascinating to see what new entries and technologies will be on show in the larger challenge of replacing fossil fuels for marine propulsion.

The Plugboats Primer e-Book about e-Boats now available!

Primer eBook

The first edition is now finished and ready for purchase. It has 80+ pages that I hope live up to the promise of the title: The essentials you need to know to get started with electric boats and boating.

I get all kinds of questions from visitors to the Plugboats site and so I thought that the best thing to do would be to answer as many as I can in one place.
I’ve tried to make the Plugboats Primer comprehensive without being loaded with jargon, hopefully finding the right balance so that it is informative and valuable for as many people as possible – those who know very little (or nothing) about electric boats…those who know a lot…and everybody in between.

The introductory price is $5.00 US. That includes free updates forever, so as the world and technologies of electric boating change so will the Primer, and purchasers will be notified when the next edition is available for (free) download.

I hope you will purchase a copy, and I look forward to comments from CYOB readers. I have proofread and proofread and researched and researched to get everything as correct as I can, but something almost always slips through the cracks. This is version 1.0 – so then you’ll get V1.1 as soon as I address the comments and (hopefully not too many) corrections.

Purchase your copy of The Plugboats Primer now

Jeff ButlerJeff Butler is based in Toronto and is the Editor/Publisher of, 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.

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