The Electric Launch Company, later renamed Elco Motor Yachts ("Elco"), is a United States boat building and electric motor company that has operated from 1893 to 1949 and from 1987 to the present
Elco first made its mark at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Fifty-five launches, each 36 feet long and powered by battery-driven electric motors, carried over a million passengers.
In 1899 Isaac Rice, president of the Electric Storage Battery Company and owner of the Electro-Dynamic Company (both suppliers to Elco), acquired Elco as a subsidiary of his new Electric Boat Company. Elco built a new boatyard in Bayonne, New Jersey soon afterward. Previously, Elco boats had been built in subcontracted facilities.
By 1900, electric-powered pleasure boats outnumbered the combined number of boats powered by steam and explosive engines (as gasoline-powered motors were called). By 1910, the advantages of the range and power of gasoline came to dominate the market and Elco converted to motor boats.
The company built the first Diesel powered yacht in America, Idealia, built during 1911 and launched in 1912. Idealia was owned by the company into 1916 and used for demonstrating the application of Diesel engines in yachts. On 22 October 1913 under ELCO corporate manager Henry R. Sutphen Idealia performed a trial on the Hudson River witnessed by naval engineers and architects on a run of about sixty miles from the Columbia Yacht Club at 86th Street to Croton Point and back.
During World War I, the company built five hundred and eighty 80-foot submarine chasers (aka Motor Launches) for the British Admiralty, and 448 110-foot submarine chasers and 284 boats of other types for the US Navy.
During World War II, Elco formed the Elco Naval Division in Bayonne, New Jersey. Nearly 400 Elco PT boats were produced for the U.S. Navy. After experimentation, the first PT boat built in any quantity was the 73-foot type. Later 77-foot and 80-foot types were built. More 80-foot Elco boats were built than any other type of US motor torpedo boat.
Perhaps the most notable 80-foot PT boat was PT-109, commanded by future president John F. Kennedy. In the film PT 109, the "Elco" script logo can be seen on the cockpit throttle housing in several scenes.
At the end of the war, the company merged with its sister company, Electric Boat, under John Jay Hopkins. In 1949, Electric Boat decided to focus on government contracts for submarines, and Elco was closed until 1987.
Today Elco in river shore south Athens NY produces hand crafted replicas of some of its classic launches. The company also still makes electric motors, mainly used to repower sailboats and heavy displacement powerboats as a replacement for diesel engines. Their EP Motors range in power from 1-35 kW, which is the diesel equivalent of 2-70 hp. Elco has also worked on recent projects with Hunter Marine to outfit some of their yachts with Elco motors and a combination of solar panels and wind turbines.