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Teslas of the sea? CES introduces electric hydrofoils


Flying cars and self-driving vehicles have always been in the spotlight at the CES gear show in Las Vegas, but this year electric recreational boats are making bigger waves.

Swedish company Candela on Thursday unveiled a 28-foot (8.5-meter) electric hydrofoil speedboat that can cruise for more than two hours at 20 knots, or about 23 miles. /hour. California-based startup Navier has tried to outdo its Scandinavian rival by offering a slightly longer electric hydrofoil, though Candela goes further in getting its product to customers. .

Even the recreational motorboat group Brunswick Corporation tried to make a splash in Nevada this week by showing off its latest electric outboard propulsion – an emerging segment in its predominantly gas-powered fleet. burn.

Why electricity?

A major reason is the environment, as well as to save on increasing fuel costs. However, electric boats — especially with their sleek foil designs that lift the hull out of the water at higher speeds — can also provide a smoother and more comfortable ride.

“You can drink a glass of wine and it won’t spill,” Navier CEO Sampriti Bhattacharyya told the Associated Press last month. “And it was quiet, extremely quiet. You can have a conversation, unlike on a gas boat.

When can you get one?

Candela CEO Gustav Hasselskog said his company has sold and manufactured 150 all-new C-8 models. The Stockholm-based startup has scaled up its workforce from 60 employees a year ago to around 400 employees by the end of the year as the company prepares to ramp up production.

But at around $400,000, neither Navier’s C-8 nor N30 are intended to replace aluminum boats used for lake fishing. They have been described as Teslas of the sea, in the hope that what begins as a luxury car could ultimately help transform the maritime industry.

“They tend to be entrepreneurs,” Hasselskog said of Candela’s early clients. “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.”

Navier’s investment backers include Google co-founder Serge Brin, which means he could get some, too.

Are the rowers ready for this?

Sure is not. These early electric boat models were expensive, heavy, and could cause “range anxiety” that was more severe than what motorists felt about. Electric CarTruist Securities analyst Michael Swartz, who tracks the leisure yacht industry, said.

“Is it safe for me to go out in the middle of the week with no one around, miles away from the coast, in an external electric motor?” Swarts said.

Swartz says it can make more sense to go with electric motors – such as a new CES offer from the Brunswick-owned company Mercury Marine — to power a fleet of small boats for hire, perhaps at the widely used sailing clubs also run by Brunswick.

“You’re nowhere near an electric boat where you can go 50 miles offshore and fish for a few hours and come back,” says Swartz. “There’s no technology that can allow you to recreate that experience other than the internal combustion engine.”

Bring a water taxi?

Both Candela and Navier are planning a secondary market for electric ferries that can compete with gas-powered vehicles currently carrying passengers around densely populated areas such as the Stockholm archipelago or along the coast. San Francisco Bay.

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

For a city like Stockholm, which has electrified most ground-based public transport, its dozens of large ferries are an exception in terms of carbon emissions. emissions.

“They need about 220 (electric) ships of this type to replace the current fleet,” Hasselskog said. And instead of running on a fixed schedule with empty seats, the smaller tram can be summoned on request such as how Uber or Lyft work on land.

Automatic assembly

Many of the companies that develop electric boat propulsion also have teams working to make these vehicles more autonomous. But since most recreational boaters enjoy steering their own boats — and most ferry passengers probably prefer to have the captain at the helm — self-driving innovation focuses on what happens at the docks. yacht.

“There is an element of fear when sailing, and a lot of the scary elements that you hear from consumers is docking,” said Swartz, an analyst at Truist. “So if that can be done seamlessly and automatically, that’s a big deal.”

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