‘Tesla of the sea’ electric hydrofoil boats are making waves in Vegas

‘Tesla of the sea’ electric hydrofoil boats are making waves in Vegas

Flying cars and self-driving vehicles tend to grab the attention at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas — but this year, electric recreational craft are making waves.

On Thursday, Swedish company Candela unveiled its 8.5-meter electric hydrofoil boat, which can cruise for more than two hours at 20 knots, or about 37 kph.

California startup Navier tried to one-up its Scandinavian rival by bringing an electric hydrofoil to CES that’s slightly longer, though Candela is further along in shipping its products to customers.

Recreational motorboat conglomerate Brunswick Corporation also tried to make a splash in Nevada this week by showing off its latest electric outboard — an emerging segment of its mostly gas-powered fleet.

Why electric?

A main reason is the environment, as well as to save on rising fuel costs. But electric boats—especially with sleek foil designs that lift the hull above the water’s surface at higher speeds—can also offer a smoother, quieter ride.

“You can drink a glass of wine and it doesn’t spill,” Navier CEO Sampriti Bhattacharyya told the AP. “And it’s quiet, extremely quiet. You can have a conversation, unlike a gas boat.”

When will they be available to consumers?

Candela CEO Gustav Hasselskog said his company has already sold and produced 150 of its new C-8 model. The Stockholm-based startup has grown its workforce from 60 employees a year ago, with a target of 400 later this year, as it prepares to ramp up production.

But with a price tag of around €375,000, neither the C-8 nor Navier’s N30 are intended to replace the aluminum fishing boat just yet. They have been described as the “Tesla of the sea”, with the hope that what starts as a luxury vehicle could eventually help transform the maritime industry.

“They tend to be entrepreneurs,” Hasselskog said of Candela’s first customers. “They tend to be tech enthusiasts, if you will, with an optimistic view of the future and the ability of technology to solve all kinds of societal challenges.”

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Navier’s investment backers include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, which means he’ll probably get one, too.

Are the boaters ready for it?

Certainly not. These early models of electric boats are expensive, heavy and can instill more serious “range anxiety” than what drivers have felt about electric cars, said Truist Securities analyst Michael Swartz, who follows the boating industry at the time. free.

“How safe is it for me to go out in the middle of the week with no one around, miles from shore, with an electric outboard?” Swartz said.

Swartz said it might make more sense to use electric motors — like a new CES contender from Brunswick-owned Mercury Marine — to power a fleet of small rental boats, perhaps in widely used yacht clubs run by Brunswick.

“You’re nowhere near the type of electric boat where you can go 50 miles offshore and go fishing for a few hours and come back,” Swartz said. “There is no technology that can enable you to replicate that experience outside of an internal combustion engine.”

Will the water taxis be electrified?

Both Candela and Navier are planning a secondary market of electric ferries that could compete with the gas-powered vehicles that now transport passengers across populated regions such as the Stockholm archipelago or along the San Francisco Bay.

Hasselskog said the same technology that powers Candela’s new leisure boat will also be used to power a 30-passenger catamaran prototype that could be operating in Sweden by summer.

For a city like Stockholm, which has already electrified most of its public land transport, its dozens of large ferries are a difference in the production of carbon emissions.

“They need about 220 of these (electric) ships to replace the current fleet,” Hasselskog said. And instead of running on fixed schedules with empty seats, smaller electric vehicles could be able to be summoned on demand, like how Uber or Lyft operate on the ground.

Automatic docking

Many of the companies developing electric boat propulsion also have teams working to make these vehicles more autonomous. But since most recreational boaters like to pilot their boats — and most ferry passengers likely prefer a human captain at the helm — the self-driving innovation focuses on what happens in the marina.

“There’s an intimidation factor with boating, and a lot of the intimidation factor you hear from consumers is with docking,” said Swartz, the Truist analyst. “So if this can be done seamlessly and automated, that’s a big deal.”

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