Teslas of the sea? CES presents electric hydrofoils

Flying cars and self-driving vehicles always grab attention at the CES Gadget Show in Las Vegas, but this year electric pleasure boats are making waves.

Swedish company Candela on Thursday unveiled a 28-foot (8.5-metre) electric-powered hydrofoil that can cruise for over two hours at 20 knots, or about 23 miles per hour. California start-up Navier tried to outperform its Scandinavian rival by launching a slightly longer electric hydrofoil, although Candela has gone further to get its products to customers.

Even recreational powerboat conglomerate Brunswick Corporation tried to cause a stir in Nevada this week by showing off its latest electric outboard motor – an emerging segment of its mostly gas-powered fleet.

Why electric?

One of the main reasons is to protect the environment and save on rising fuel costs. But electric-powered boats — especially with the sleek foiling designs that raise the hull above the waterline at higher speeds — can also offer a smoother, quieter ride.

“You can have a glass of wine without spilling it†, Sampriti Bhattacharyya, Navier CEO said The Associated Press Last month. “And it’s quiet, extremely quiet. You can talk, unlike on a gas boat.”

when can you get one

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

But priced at around $400,000, neither Navier’s C-8 nor N30 aim to replace the aluminum boat that’s used to fish the lake. They have been described as Teslas of the sea, with the hope that what begins as one luxury vehicle could eventually help transform the shipping industry.

“They are usually entrepreneurs,†Hasselskog said of Candela’s first clients. “They are usually techies, if you will, with an optimistic view of the future and the ability of technology to solve all kinds of societal challenges.â€

Navier’s backers include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, which means he’s likely to get one, too.

Are boaters prepared for this?

Probably not. These early models of electric boats are expensive, heavy and could induce more serious “range anxiety” than what drivers have previously felt electric carssaid Truist Securities analyst Michael Swartz, who follows the recreational boating industry.

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

Swartz said it might make more sense to use electric motors – like a new CES offering from Brunswick mercury Marine – to power a fleet of small hire boats, perhaps at the widespread boat clubs also operated by Brunswick.

“They’re nowhere near an electric boat that you can go 50 miles offshore and fish for a couple hours and then come back,” Swartz said. “There is no technology that can allow you to replicate this experience outside of an internal combustion engine.â€

Do you bring the water taxis?

Both Candela and Navier envision an aftermarket for electric ferries that could compete with the gas-powered vehicles that now carry commuters in populated regions like the Stockholm archipelago or along San Francisco Bay.

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

For a city like Stockholm, which has already electrified most of its public ground transport, its dozens of large ferries are an outlier in terms of CO2 production emissions.

“You need about 220 of these (electric) ships to replace the current fleet,” Hasselskog said. And instead of driving according to fixed timetables with empty seats, the smaller ones electric vehicles could be able to, if needed such as B. To be summoned above or lyft work on land.

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 enjoy piloting their own boats — and most ferry passengers probably prefer a human captain at the helm — the self-propelled innovation focuses on what’s happening in the marina.

“There’s an intimidation factor in boating, and a lot of the intimidation factor that you hear from consumers is about docking,” said Swartz, the analyst at Truist. “So if this can be done seamlessly and automatically, that’sa huge thing.â€

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