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CES 2023: “Tesla of the Sea” electric hydrofoils are causing a sensation in Las Vegas

origin 1A number of developments in electric boats were unveiled at CES 2023 ©AP Photo

Flying cars and self-driving vehicles tend to get attention at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, but this year, electric recreational boats are causing a stir.

On Thursday, Swedish company Candela unveiled its 8.5-metre electric hydrofoil motorboat that can cruise for more than two hours at 20 knots, or about 37 km/h.

California startup Navier tried to outdo its Scandinavian rival by bringing a slightly longer electric hydrofoil to CES, though Candela is further ahead in getting its products to customers.

Recreational powerboat conglomerate Brunswick Corporation also looked to make a splash in Nevada this week by showing off its latest electric outboard motor, an up-and-coming segment of its mostly gas-powered fleet.

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Why electric?

One of the main reasons is environmental, as well as to save money on rising fuel costs. But electric propelled boats, especially with sleek foiling designs that raise the hull above the surface of the water at higher speeds, can also offer a smoother, quieter ride.

“You can have a glass of wine and it doesn’t spill,” Navier CEO Sampriti Bhattacharyya told 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 all-new C-8 model. The Stockholm-based startup increased its workforce from 60 employees a year ago, with a goal of 400 by the end of the year as it prepares to ramp up production.

But with a price tag of around 375,000 euros, neither Navier’s C-8 nor N30 yet aims to replace the aluminum trawler. They have been described as the ‘Teslas of the sea’, with the hope that what starts out as a luxury vehicle can eventually 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 of technology’s ability to solve all kinds of societal challenges.”

Supporters of Navier’s investments include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, which means he’s likely to have one, too.

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Are boaters ready for this?

Probably not. These early models of electric boats are expensive, heavy and could instill more severe “range anxiety” than drivers have felt for electric cars, said Truist Securities analyst Michael Swartz, who follows the boat industry. pleasure boats.

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

Swartz said it might make more sense to use electric motors — such as a new CES candidate from the Brunswick-owned Mercury Marine — to power a fleet of small charter boats, perhaps at widely used boat clubs also operated by Brunswick.

“You’re nowhere near the kind of electric boat where you can go 80 km offshore and go fishing for a couple of hours and come back,” Swartz said. “There is no technology that can allow you to replicate that experience outside of an internal combustion engine.”

Will water taxis also be electrified?

Both Candela and Navier are planning a secondary market for electric ferries that can compete with the gas-powered vehicles that now carry commuters to populated regions like the Stockholm archipelago or along San Francisco Bay.

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

For a city like Stockholm, which has already electrified most of its land-based public transport, its dozens of large ferries are an outlier in producing carbon emissions.

“They need something like 220 of these (electric) vessels to replace the current fleet,” Hasselskog said. And instead of running on fixed schedules with empty seats, the smaller EVs could be summoned on demand, as land-based Uber or Lyft do.

Automatic docking

Many of the companies developing the electric propulsion of boats also have teams working to make these vehicles more autonomous. But because most boaters like to pilot their own boats – and most ferry passengers probably prefer a human captain at the helm – the self-driving innovation is focused on what happens at 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 analyst at Truist. “So if that can be made smooth and automated, that’s a big deal.”