The Electric Propulsion TURN-ON

COURTESY VOLTARI

The Canadian boatbuilder Voltari’s 26′ (7.92m) deep-V carbon fiber boat can plane at high speeds with electric propulsion but must run at modest speeds to travel far on a single charge of its 142-kW battery

Regulatory necessity was the mother of invention in 2004 when Christoph Ballin and Friedrich Böbel created the Torqeedo electric-propulsion system to sidestep restrictions for boats with gasoline engines on Bavaria’s Lake Starnberg. For many in the mainstream boating market, their distinctive orange and aluminum outboard was the first encounter with electric boat propulsion. Torqeedo’s creative rethinking of marine propulsion opened the doors for other electric-propulsion systems and builders of electric boats that followed in the next two decades.

By 2023 the prevalence of electric boat startups and prototypes at boat shows was reminiscent of early Tesla offerings, when the automotive market was intrigued by, but not yet ready for, electric cars to go mainstream. The marine industry is still courting early adopters, who will invest in new boats and propulsion systems and the future of a burgeoning electric boat market many believe is just around the corner.

Marilyn DeMartini | Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Roger Moore, of Nautical Ventures, runs seven Florida dealerships, has invested in electric boats, and works to overcome impediments to their sales.

There are myriad offerings to pick from: Sweden’s X Shore and Candela; Norway’s Evoy; The Netherlands’ Green Marine and Sialia Yachts; Slovenia’s Alphastreet Yachts; Canada’s Vision Marine Technologies, Voltari, and Taiga; China’s ePropulsion; and the United States’ Chris-Craft, Duffy, Forza, Ingenity, Flux Marine, and Pure Watercraft, to name a few. These companies demonstrate an international interest in electric propulsion; lithium-ion batteries; hydrofoils; battery management systems; charging technologies; photovoltaics; and phone apps to integrate propulsion, entertainment, and navigation systems. Amidst all that churn, one concrete measure of promise in the emerging market comes from marine giant Brunswick’s debut of its electric Veer Boats brand, powered by its own Avatar propulsion system.

While many electric propulsion manufacturers still claim unique capacities and build on proprietary platforms or technologies, they share most of the same stated goals: reduce fossil fuel consumption, tailpipe emissions, and noise pollution. Similarly, performance for all modern electric boats is limited by the energy density of onboard battery banks, which pales when compared to that of conventional fossil fuels. In short, taking a big center-console or sportfisherman loaded with anglers to the Bahamas for a weekend won’t happen on today’s electric motors, but a cruise down a river or lake to a lunch or dinner spot, a jaunt to the sandbar, or a brief ski or tubing run with the family can easily be accommodated.

How are consumers adjusting to the complexity of change? Roger Moore, CEO and founder of Nautical Ventures, a dealer with seven Florida locations who has invested in electric boats for several years, says the new technology must overcome five common challenges:

1. Range anxiety is the most common problem, which he prefers to see as “capability.” Research by Freedom Boat Club shows the average boat trip is 8 miles, and further telemetric numbers from Ingenity indicate 98% of center-console boat trips can be fulfilled by electric. “It’s explainable,” says Moore, so he can address that concern.

2. Charging speed is a perceived problem because shoreside infrastructure has not yet caught up to the charging power that will be needed as electric boats become popular. Shore power at 220V can charge a boat overnight, but land charging at 120V requires forethought, so the boat can be ready after a longer charge in a garage. While a full charge will get most boaters through a short day, charging in a stack facility is impossible due to access and liabilities.

3. Service for electric boats is minimal because battery systems are sealed, and most “service” is done through a software update and cellphone interface. The perception is that a dealer won’t or can’t service electric power. Moore explains that Vision Marine Technologies is addressing that issue by opening electric service stations in Nautical Ventures locations to service its motors. That is a beginning.

4. Price is another perceived issue, and Moore expects prices to drop in the future; in fact, prices of automotive propulsion batteries already show signs of easing.

5. Sales-force burnout. The sales team has invested considerable time and effort to educate customers, but there have been few sales, and given the ubiquity of commission-based models, the sales staff loses incentive. Despite that, Moore is continuing to invest so he and his team will be more knowledgeable than others about the sector as it matures and grows. Commenting on Nautical Ventures’ orange uniform shirts, he jokes that in his vision of the company’s place in the future market, “Orange is the new green.”

Another customer adjustment is the language around electric propulsion. We talk motors, not engines; kilowatts (kW), not horsepower; and kilowatt-hours (kWh), not gallons of fuel, when referencing stored energy. It is odd to discuss charging that depends on AC, DC, 120V, or 220V power, or the “fast chargers” that can dramatically increase charging capacity and decrease charging time for those who want to invest in a custom installation. In 2024 electric propulsion requires a change in mindset for boaters who must think strategically about range and energy consumption, especially while charging stations remain few and far between in most areas.

Let’s look at a sample of companies helping to define the new market for electric boats, arranged by country of origin:

Canada

COURTESY VISION MARINE

Vision Marine’s S2 model carbon composite catamaran was designed and built by Formula 1 and Offshore racer Shaun Torrente, partner Sean Connor, and Mannerfelt Designs. It briefly held an electric boat speed record of 116 mph set at the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout.

Vision Marine Technologies (VMT) has been actively developing electric outboards and boats. It debuted an electric Starcraft EX 22 (6.7m) pontoon at the IBEX Show in 2021. The boat reached 39 mph in sea trials.

VMT’s 180-E outboard also powers the Four Winns H2e, a 22 bowrider that tops out at 40 mph; it’s run by two high-voltage, high-density 700V battery packs, with an integrated onboard charger that plugs into standard shore-power systems. VMT has launched rental fleets in California at Port Ventura and Newport Beach, with another planned for Dania Beach, Florida. The company builds two models for its rental fleets, the Volt 180 and Fantail 217.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement of Vision Marine was its recent record-breaking speed of 116 mph at the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, which hosts a 1⁄2-mile race course, the country’s largest unsanctioned boat race. The S2 model carbon composite, canopied catamaran was designed and built by Formula 1 and Offshore racer Shaun Torrente and partner Sean Connor, together with Mannerfelt Designs (see “Team Mannerfelt,” in Professional BoatBuilder No. 163, page 26). It was powered by Danfoss Editron, provider of the electric motors for the E-Motion Electric Powertrain systems, and Octillion Power Systems batteries (see www.vision marinetechnologies.com).

[Ed. Note: Vision Marine’s world record was recently broken by a team of students from Princeton University whose vintage hydroplane raced with a much smaller electric outboard motor. See Rovings, page 8.]

COURTESY TAIGA

An electric-powered personal watercraft from Taiga Electric is built in carbon fiber to help compensate for its heavy lithium batteries.

Voltari Marine Electric, with facilities in Quebec, Montreal, and Merrickville (Ontario), recently completed a 91-mile trip from Key Largo to Bimini to prove its 26 (7.92m) deep-V carbon fiber boat could travel long distances on a single charge of its 142-kW battery. The trip took approximately 24 hours at a sedate average of 5 mph, illustrating the trade-off of speed and range in the current generation of electric boats.

The company opened a customer experience center, Club Voltari showroom/dealership in Fort Lauderdale’s Pier 66 in 2023, for visitors to explore all aspects of the Voltari brand. The vertically integrated company designs and builds its own battery systems and boats, based on the Pantera raceboat.

Beginning in 2015 the founders created an all-carbon tender under the name Carbon Marine, which was acquired by Voltari, along with LTS Propulsion Systems, a successful provider of battery-powered heavy equipment and rail services. www.voltari electric.com.

Taiga Electric, in Quebec, started with snowmobiles. Proving that its batteries could withstand the cold, it proved that they could also withstand heat and created the Orca Carbon personal watercraft. With batteries sealed in a watertight compartment below the waterline, the PWC is stable, while its lightweight carbon fiber construction offsets some of the batteries’ weight. It offers three slow-to-fast operational modes: Range, Sport, and Wild. The Orca’s range is about 28 miles or 60–90 minutes, depending on speed. The batteries can be charged to 6.6 kW at Level 1 power (110V–120V at home in a garage) overnight, while at Level 2 (220V, dock shore power), charging takes 3.5 hours. A Level 3 charger is listed on Taiga’s website, and the company offers charger installation at a personal dock. www.taigamotors.com.

Sweden

COURTESY X SHORE

Swedish boatbuilder X Shore worked with Bosch to source propulsion motors originally from automotive projects for its recreational and commercial electric boats, including the X Shore PRO model shown here.

X Shore, a technology company and boatbuilder, recently teamed with multinational engineering and technology company Bosch to create new electric motors. The boatbuilder had already introduced two fully electric boat models, 21 and 26 (6.4m and 7.92m), and recently added a third, the X Shore PRO, for the commercial market. In an example of new automotive technology trickling down to the marine sector, Bosch will help develop and improve the performance and efficiency of the electric drive system on the newest recreational model, the X Shore 1.

This is the first marine venture for Bosch but likely won’t be the last. A company release stated its intention to strengthen its portfolio of “solutions for electrified driving” and to share its “series production experience and automotive proven high-performance components.”

The X Shore 1, with a range of 50 nm running between 20 knots and 30 knots, relies on Bosch’s largest motor for leisure-boat applications, as well as the Bosch inverter and gearbox, developed and manufactured by its subsidiary, Bosch Rexroth. www.xshore.com/us/xshore-1; www.Bosch-Engineering.com.

COURTESY CANDELA

The 28′ (8.5m) Candela C-8, a foiling electric-powered pleasure boat, has remarkable range, thanks to low drag and light weight. Also in development is a commercial shuttle model.

Candela, in Stockholm, now refining its second-generation 28 (8.5m) carbon-fiber electric hydrofoil boat, partnered with Swedish auto builder Polestar to upgrade from 44 kWh to 69 kWh powering its C-8 Polestar model. In a stunt that one-upped Voltari and helped combat range anxiety among buyers, the company recently sent a C-8 Polestar on a voyage of 483 miles in 24 hours, DC-charging during stops at a dock. However, given that the efficiency of the foil-assisted boat, with less than 1% of the boat touching the water and requiring 20% of the energy needed by conventional boats, the achievement is not exactly a direct comparison. Using the Polestar 69-kWh automotive batteries, the company also partnered with Northvolt, a Swedish battery maker, using its mobile DC fast-charging system for short recharge stops. The company traveled through the Swedish archipelago at approximately 27 knots, stopping at one-hour intervals to “top up” the batteries. In so doing, Candela demonstrated not just single-charge efficiency but also the value of DC fast charging for marine applications. The team averaged 17 knots (19.5 mph or 31.5 kmh) throughout the 24 hours, including time stopped to charge.

Gustav Hasselskog, Candela’s CEO and founder, who piloted the C-8 during the record attempt, reported the total cost for electricity was approximately €110 (US $117), while a conventional boat would have used at least €1,400 (US $1,490) of fuel for the same long-distance journey.

In an application well suited to the limitations of electric propulsion, Candela launched and is sea-trialing its first commercial passenger-carrying electric foiling catamaran, the 11.99m (39.34 ) P-12 model, which has a capacity of 30 passengers and a range of 40–50 miles at 25 knots. It will carry commuters in Stockholm on a trial basis in 2024. www.candela.com.

United States

COURTESY INGENITY

Florida-based Ingenity’s 10-person electric pontoon boat can cruise for up to seven hours on a single charge.

Duffy Electric Boats, the historical electric boating option in the U.S., started in 1969 with a golf cart motor installed in an old motorboat hull. The California-based company builds four quiet, exhaust-free bay and lake cruiser models from 16 to 22 (4.9m to 6.7m). Fiberglass hulls that seat 10–12 are still powered by lead-acid Trojan batteries, using a power rudder, urethane propellers, and a variable-speed controller.

Duffy Electric Boats are used by Disney, Marriott Hotels, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. There more than 3,000 in Newport Harbor, California, alone. In a bid to keep pace with the times and technology, Duffy plans a new 23 (7m) Sun Cruiser model with lithium batteries and a drop-down-transom swim step, as well as a new 20 (6.1m) model with center steering and lounge seating, both by the end of 2023. www.duffy boats.com.

Ingenity is a brand of Watershed Innovation, founded in 2018 by Orlando-based Correct Craft to self-consciously incubate “disruptive technologies” that enhance time spent on the water. The company focused on developing commercial, residential, and upgraded AC chargers to shorten charging time. It then created three boat models in its electric series: the Ingenity EL 1 and EL 2 pontoon boats, with a 10-person capacity and the ability to cruise up to seven hours, with a 25-mph top speed; the Hacker 27 Special Sport, a vintage-runabout lookalike that can reach 34-mph top speed and charge overnight at the dock or with a Fast Charge at 1.5 hours; and the Super Air Nautique GS 22E, a multisport towboat that can take 11 riders out for two to three hours of operation. www.ingenityelectric.com.

COURTESY FORZA X1

Soon to be built in North Carolina, the Forza X1 F22 launches the builder into the electric market, with dual-console and pontoon models to follow.

Forza X1, the electric boat manufacturer started by the majority stockholder Twin Vee, produced the F22, a V-hull center-console designed and manufactured from the ground up by its in-house team. The original engine is a 180-hp (134-kW) outboard that achieves 40 mph and can cruise at 20 mph–30 mph for up to five hours. The company developed a vertically oriented engine, enabling a 300-hp (224-kW) model with double-stacked motors, which can nearly double its power. A Dual Console FX-1 model will also be available soon, and both models are set up to fish, tow, and operate like a comparable gas-powered boat, complete with its throttle mechanism.

A deal with OneWater Marine to purchase 100 vessels gave a significant boost. Production boats were rolling off Twin Vee’s line in Fort Pierce, Florida, in late 2023, while a new 100,000-sq-ft (9,290.3m2) factory in Marion, North Carlina, is being built. The first phase will be 60,000 sq ft (5574.2m2) with the goal to produce 600 boats per year.

Forza also recently teamed up with Polaris Marine to power a 266 (8.1m) 2024 Bennington L-Series Bowrider and a 2311 (7.3m) 2023 Godfrey Monaco 235 as prototypes for the pontoon market. www.forzax1.com.

Dieter Loibner | Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Pure Watercraft’s foil-assisted electric pontoon boat prototype during a demo-run on Seattle’s Lake Washington.

Pure Watercraft, the Seattle-based builder of electric boats, recently presented a carbon-fiber prototype pontoon boat with foil assist (see Rovings, PBB No. 204, page 8). In its recent partnership with GM, Pure Watercraft will also have access to the automaker’s manufacturing resources, including batteries, such as the 66-kW battery pack for the Chevy Bolt. With the fixed foil, the prototype could achieve speeds of up to 24 knots and travel approximately 35 nm in 3.5 hours on a single battery charge. So look for more marine/auto partnerships as technologies and alliances develop.www.purewatercraft.com.

COURTESY BRUNSWICK

Brunswick’s entry-level Veer roto-molded skiff, built by Lund and powered by the Mercury Avatar electric outboard, was introduced at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show.

It’s telling that boatbuilding behemoth Brunswick chose to unveil its latest innovation in electric boating not at a boat show but at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Veer Boats, a new brand with electric propulsion, is intended to appeal to the next generation of boaters. The introductory X13 has a rotomolded polyethylene hull developed by Lund Boats and powered by the Mercury Avatar 7.5e 3.5-hp (2.6-kW) electric outboard, designed to appeal to “younger and more diverse consumers,” with digital displays and a propulsion system that produces no direct emissions.

Brunswick sweetened its electric offerings with its new Avatar 20e (9-hp) and 35e (15-hp) outboards and updating the 7.5e for smaller boats. The tiller-operated motor includes features for small-boat users, such as quick-change batteries developed with Mastervolt, silent operation, and a fully integrated digital display that syncs with smartphones. www.brunswick.com.

COURTESY FLUX MARINE

This electric-propulsion motor is from Flux Marine, a Rhode Island–based developer of motors and batteries for various builders, including the world-record-setting Princeton University Electric Speedboat Team.

Flux Marine, an electric outboard manufacturer founded by Ben Sorkin and Jon Lord in Bristol, Rhode Island, develops, builds, and markets electric outboards from 10kW to 75kW (continuous power), and partners with boatbuilding companies like Scout and Highfield to offer complete packages. According to Sorkin, “Our propulsion technology is proprietary, along with our batteries. We’ve developed novel thermal management solutions and a completely ground-up physical outboard architecture. Our biggest selling point is…fully redesigning the outboard motor to emphasize the benefits of electric propulsion and provide an overall better experience for the boater.” Sorkin and Lord helped Princeton University’s Electric Speedboat Team with the drivetrain for their hydroplane that set a new world speed record last year (see our related story). www.fluxmarine.com.

Conclusion

These are just a few electric boats, electric-propulsion systems, and components that shifted from relative obscurity into the mainstream boat market in 2023. As well as the actual boats, numerous batteries of new chemistries and capacities, charging systems, solar panels, monitoring systems, specialized fire-extinguishing equipment, and hydrofoils all drew interest at the defining industry trade shows IBEX and METSTrade. Naval architects are scrambling to lighten hulls and minimize drag to extend the range of electric boats as much as possible, while regional planners and industry groups look for opportunities to increase dockside charging for commercial and recreational electric boats. They all see that, ready or not, electric boats are coming. By the time this article prints, we will likely have seen numerous news flashes and advances—companies breaking new records and exceeding prior levels and limits—that will date the information above and prove that electrification of the marine industry has emerged from its nascent period. 

About the Author: Marilyn DeMartini has represented World Championship offshore racing teams such as Drambuie On Ice, Lucas Oil, Outerlimits, and Statement powerboats. She managed public relations for Latham Marine and the Cigarette Racing Team for more than a decade. She has written for Power Motor YachtYachts InternationalSoundingsBoat InternationalPassage Maker, as well as Professional BoatBuilder. She is also a video journalist for Boats Group’s YachtWorld, Boat Trader, and Boats.com.