Electric boating is emerging to become the ‘new normal’. Major boatbuilding companies embrace battery powered emission free drivetrains. New brands are launched and established brands launch electric models.
Motor boats and yachts, small and large, passage making and planing and designed for long range or short day trips and also sailing yachts that mainly use their engine to get in and out of harbors, electric propulsion is seen on all types of boats. It appears that the yachting industry is at pace with the automotive industry, where also leading manufacturers all present electric vehicles with modern features and performance alongside their fossil fuel powered range. New brands are launched that specialize in electric vehicles.
Known for speed and maneuverability, bowrider brand Four Winns presented their first electric powered bowrider model boat H2E last month at the Miami International Boat Show. The American brand of lake boats with special focus on water skiing, is owned by French Groupe Beneteau. The H2E is powered by Vision Marine’s E-Motion 180 horsepower equivalent electric outboard engine. The Canadian manufacturer of marine cameras envisions a complete transition of boating towards electric propulsion and has developed a robust outboard to accelerate this change. “Boaters are more aware than ever of their environmental footprints and are looking for sustainable solutions to reducing carbon emissions while still being able to enjoy the passions they love so much,” said CEO Alexandre Mongeon at the presentation of the H2E. Silent propulsion, impressive acceleration and no hassle with fuel are mentioned in the praise for electric propulsion, while tanks in the Four Winns bowrider are replaced with two 700 volt battery packs, coupled to a smart charging device for both fast charging and slow charging overnight.
In the luxury segment, Falcon tenders introduced the Falcon E8.This 8 meter long open dayboat targets superyacht owners to use it as a tender. Styling is sleek and technology is embedded discreetly to not draw attention. Propulsion comes from Vita Power, a relatively new company established in 2017 to develop marine power trains from charging controller to dashboard controls and everything in between. The E8’s battery pack can be charged from 20 up to 80 percent with DC charging in less than an hour, or if time allows with AC shore power in up to five hours. Fully charged, the Falcon tender can reach a top speed of 30 knots, while it can cover a 30 nautical mile range at it’s 25 knot cruising speed. Silent cruising adds to the luxury of the onboard experience.
In line with the electric boats presented last month, that use third party drive trains for propulsion, Hercules Electric Marine presented their modular E-Drive System. This 200 kiloWatt (250 horsepower equivalent) sterndrive set can be used by boat builders to fit a variety of boat types. Battery packs contain a combination of Li-Ion and solid state batteries and come in three sizes, depending on the required speed, weight and range of the boat it is installed upon. The propulsion set is laid out for fast boats that may reach speeds over 40 knots and dependinhg on boat size and weight, combined with the capacity of the battery pack chosen, will propel the boat for 4 up to 12 hours continuously. Integrated controls offer the opportunity for software customizing to fit the boats’ particulars and create the sailing experience as desired by the boat builder or even the individual customer. A lot of different charging options are built in, so any kind of power feed will add range to boat. This can be solar panels, AC shore power or DC power from a fast charging system. The E-Drive can even be used as a home power storage system. With the boat connected to the home electricity supply, batteries can be charged by dsolar panels during daylight and provide electricity in the evening. The electric propulsion system can be installed on new boats or retrofitted in older models that get a refit.
The widespread fast charging network that is needed to for cunsumer acceptance of electric boating is top of mind for Aqua Super Power from Italy, that installs Direct Current chargers in marinas for free. Skippers that want to charge their boats a the chargers, can download the Aqua Super Power app to pay for the use. The company pasrtners with some of the leading yards that develoip asnd build electric boats, like Evoy, X-Shore, Vita. Last month, a new partnership was announced with Delphia Yachts, the Polish yard that has been incorporated into the Groupe Beneteau and now focuses at passagemaking inland motor yachts with a strong drive towards electricfication of the range.
While the new generation of automobiles appeals to a wide population of buyers, there are some striking changes in boating that may get accepted thanks to electrification. Formerly exotic features like foils that lift boats out of the water to reduce drag, allow for high speed and long range thanks to reduced resistance. Skippers are presented with an array of information and controls to review range and performance of the boat and to be able to adapt speed and trim to get to their destination in the best possible way. Electrification defines the need for features like these on watercraft, boat builders do believe the public will embrace them.
E1 racing is set to popularize electric boating. The world association of powerboat racing Union Internationale Motonautique accredited the RaceBird, a foiling raceboat that reaches 50 knots with a 150 kiloWatt (200 horsepower) electric engine provided by Mercury Marine. A 35 kWh battery provides electricity. A full race will require two charges of the battery. Data from the race boats is collected by the ATLAS system monito and McLaren Control Toolbox. Theteram from McLaren Applied thatr also assists the (fossil fueled) Formula 1 car racing team, engages in E1 boat racing. Boat racing success comes down to the pilot’s skills, but also technology plays a role. While the RaceBird boats come with the same engine and hull structure, the set-up of the Vehicle Control Unit software can make a difference. Josh Wesley, Head of Engineering at SeaBird Technologies, commented: “From an engineering perspective, it’s important that we can access and view data in real-time coming from the boats. We will use the learnings from this analysis to fine-tune the performance of the RaceBird prototype ready to hand it over to the teams.”
The inaugural championship is set to be traced in the course of 2023. Tennis player Rafael Nadal joins as a team captain. The race events are to be held in scenic waterfront cities. A schedule for this year’s tracing is not announced yet.