In 2020, almost 75 percent of new light-vehicle sales in Norway were electric cars, making that country the world’s leader in plug-in car sales. Sweden was third with 32 percent, Finland was fifth with 18 percent and Denmark was sixth with almost 16 percent according to EV-Volumes, which tracks worldwide EV sales.
There’s a reason why the Scandinavians embrace electric cars. Their governments heavily incentivize plug-in car purchases by waving or reducing sales taxes, value-added taxes, tolls and parking fees. But Scandinavia’s burgeoning electric car craze has created an electric and sustainability mindset that is now also being applied to boating—an activity the Scandinavians love.
Until recently, two factors have limited the popularity of electric boating: range and speed. But ongoing improvements to battery and other technologies—many of them courtesy of the electric car industry—have inspired at least five Scandinavian companies to develop electric boats that can go faster and farther, and these builders are bringing their products to America.
Swedish start-up X Shore made a splash at the 2021 Newport International Boat Show with its first boat, the 100-percent electric Eelex 8000. Even died-in-the-wool, fossil-fuel-loving marine journalists walked away impressed, with more than one electric-boat skeptic reluctantly admitting they enjoyed running the Eelex 8000.
The Eelex 8000 has a top speed of more than 30 knots, cruises between 15 and 20 knots, and at 5 to 7 knots has a range of 100 nautical miles on a full charge. Like a Tesla, and a number of electric boats, the Eelex 8000’s software can be updated remotely, allowing for regular improvements to the boat’s capabilities.
The Eelex 8000’s style is pure Scandinavian, and there is a heavy emphasis on sustainability. With a 24-inch Garmin multifunction touchscreen display, which controls almost everything on the boat, and a rotary throttle, the Eelex is straight from the future. It features cork decks and toerails, and although the hull is made out of Divinycell, fiberglass and carbon fiber—not the greenest materials—X Shore offers a flax fabric hull to the environmentally hardcore buyer, and also plans to offer a PET hull made from recycled plastic bottles.
Powered by an Austrian-made Brusa 225-kW electric motor and dual 60-kWh
lithium-ion batteries, which a dedicated supercharger can fully load up in 1 to 2 hours, X Shore plans to add a self-docking feature and envisions a self-driving boat. The autopilot already supplies a hands-off ride, and a dedicated mobile app allows remote start-up and location tracking. Paired with an optional Garmin MARQ watch, the boat will stop within 10 seconds if the watch-wearer falls into the water.
The Eelex 8000 is currently built right outside Stockholm, but the company’s goal for 2022 is to select a U.S. location to build them. Patrick DeSocio, X Shore’s head of sales for North America, recognizes there is an educational hurdle that electric boatbuilders need to overcome. “People have range anxiety similar to the electric car market,” he says. “They ask, ‘How do we use a boat with a hundred-nautical-mile range?’” He says boaters should use the same mentality that they use with a traditionally powered boat. “What are you going to do when you run out of fuel? You call Sea Tow,” he says.
DeSocio points out that each boat has its purpose. “You’re not going to take it from West Palm Beach to the Abacos and back in one day,” he says about the Eelex 8000. Instead, the X Shore boat is great for the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay and similar locations. “You’re going to use it in Newport as a dayboat, as a
family boat,” he says. Which is exactly what DeSocio did last summer when he kept the Eelex 8000 at Rhode Island’s Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard.
“We were all over Narragansett Bay,” he says. “We had friends out. Sometimes six, seven, eight adults, or two kids and a dog. We went to Jamestown, to Mackerel Cove, Potter Cove and Bristol, and typically came back with a 30- to 35-percent charge. I think it was an eye-opener for a lot of people.”
CANDELA ELECTRIC BOATS
In 2016, when Swedish start-up Candela Speed Boat AB designed the C-7, its first foiling boat, the company opted for a more conventional-looking hull. “In the beginning, we didn’t know how the foiling tech would be received,” says Candela Public Relations and Communications Manager Mikael Mahlberg, “so we wanted to make a classic boat and not something from the future.”
Sitting in the water with its retractable foils, the carbon-fiber C-7 hull looks like a classic runabout from the ’50s, but when the foils are lowered, they allow the C-7 to do 30 knots using a 55-kW motor that is comparable in power to a 74-hp gas outboard. The “flight” is controlled by an array of sensors that measure wave height, along with a custom-designed flight controller. The C-7 can cruise at 20 knots for about 50 nautical miles using the 40-kWh battery. It recently beat 14 other electric boats in the sprint race at the Monaco Energy Challenge, where it hit 31 knots and averaged 27 knots in rough weather and big waves.
Candela has sold more than 30 of the 25-foot C-7s since 2019, but for its next act, the company has opted for something more contemporary. The C-8, which Candela plans to mass produce and debut in the U.S. at the spring 2022 boat shows, is a more futuristic boat. “We wanted a more modern look to go with the technology, which is state of the art,” says Mahlberg.
Developing the 28.5-foot C-8 was no small chore, Mahlberg says. The C-7 was built by seven engineers, but 55 people worked on the C-8’s development. “It’s a pretty big undertaking,” Mahlberg says. “It’s kind of like an Apollo space-launch project.”
Whereas the C-7 relied on a Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i motor with a lower unit and retraction technology by Candela, the C-8’s entire propulsion package was developed in-house. “To make an even more efficient boat we had to reinvent electric propulsion,” Mahlberg says.
That product, the Candela C-Pod, places two ultra-compact electric motors inside a torpedo-shaped tube below the water where the motors drive two counter-rotating propellers. The unique design solves a problem that engineers are always trying to mitigate: heat generated by the electric motor. By putting the motors below the surface, the water around the tube provides thermal cooling.
Because there are no gears or mechanical parts that need servicing, the C-pod is designed to be maintenance-free for 3,000 hours. “The average boat gets used 40 hours per year,” says Mahlberg. “At that rate, you could run it for close to a hundred years. When you give it to your kids, they won’t have to do any maintenance either.”
The C-8’s flight system adjusts the hydrofoil about 100 times per second, so if a large wave is coming up it will correct for that. “We have the ability to see what happens in front of the boat.” Mahlberg says. “The computers will have more time to adjust, so we have better wave management.”
With a cruise speed between 22 to 24 knots and a range of 50 nautical miles, Candela believes the C-8 will be an eye-opener. “We think we’re going to surprise the world with it,” Mahlberg says. “We had 60 orders in just five weeks. That’s a lot for a $300,000 boat,” he says. “And the price is in line with a 28-foot Chris-Craft.”
Mahlberg says that Candela’s foiling technology gives its boats a combination of range, speed and efficiency that non-foiling electric boats will find difficult to match. “You use so much energy going through the water. This is pretty basic math. A foiling boat gives you the range and speed you are used to from a gasoline boat. Plus, you get no slamming, no noise. You’re flying above the water. It’s like an electric scooter.”
If you rent a boat in Copenhagen, Denmark, odds are you’ll end up in one of 100 or more electric-powered Rand Picnic 18s that traverse the city’s canals.
Rand Boats was created in 2014 by Carl Kai Rand, a Danish architect who also designs the boats. Since its founding, the company has sold more than 500 boats worldwide and currently offers seven models between 18 and 30 feet in length. All the models can be outfitted with traditional gas or diesel power plants, or with electric drives. Rand uses Torqeedo outboards for the smaller models and a custom eDrive package with inboard electric motors from Austrian manufacturer Kräutler for the larger models. The latest model, the Escape 30, made its debut at the 2021 Cannes Yachting Festival. Base price for an electric version is $472,000.
Morten Aagaard and his partners Henrik Laursen and Stefan Hoyer started Rand Boats USA, the exclusive Rand distributor for the U.S. and Central America, in 2020. In a little over a year, they have sold more than 50 of the Croatian-built Rands in the U.S. Aagaard says what sets the builder apart is its emphasis on sustainability. The foam inside the fiberglass hulls is made of recycled plastic bottles and the decks and tables are made from sustainably forested wood.
“The Scandinavian countries are the forerunners of sustainability, so I think it comes naturally for boat producers to find ways to make boating emissions-free and sustainable,” says Aagaard. “Everything we do is about sustainability. We think about it all the time. At some point we hope we don’t have to sell gas engines, but right now there is still a demand.”
Aagaard says electric technology is evolving quickly. “Since we started, the range has improved, the speed has improved,” he says. “We are constantly able to offer bigger motors and models. More and more marinas are starting to think about quick-charge systems. When it comes to electric propulsion, everything improves all the time.”
MANTARAY HYDROFOIL CRAFT
Anton Simberg, CEO for Sweden’s Mantaray Craft, sees Scandinavia—and the Stockholm area in particular—as the epicenter of electric boating. “It’s hard to see when you are in the middle of it,” Simberg says, “but I think Mantaray, Candela and X Shore push each other in the right direction, and I truly believe that we can have a greater impact together than one-for-one.”
But Mantaray’s business model differs from Candela and X Shore. Although Mantaray is producing a series of foiling boats to enter the market, selling boats is not the company’s goal. Instead, it intends to sell its patented Dynamic Wing Technology—a self-regulating foil that requires no computers or extra systems to fly the boat—directly to boat manufacturers.
According to Simberg, besides eliminating the need for a computerized foil control system, the advantages of the Dynamic Wing Technology are 75 percent less energy consumption; a softer, wakeless ride; the ability to utilize traditional outboard engines or electric outboards; and when going electric, less maintenance. “The environmental impact will be much bigger if all manufacturers build hydrofoil boats,” Simberg says, “but we must have a great-looking boat to show how smart our self-regulating system works.”
To demonstrate Dynamic Wing Technology’s proof-of-concept, Mantaray built a 16-foot model, the one.fly, which it tested with a 23-kW electric outboard from Austrian builder aquawatt. The one.fly hit a top-end speed of 32 knots and at 25 knots flew for about two hours, giving it about a 40-nautical-mile range.
Mantaray says it will launch a 25-foot model in May 2022 to further showcase the system’s capabilities. The builder is still weighing numerous propulsion and battery options for that boat, which it refers to as the Verona (it means ‘fly’ in Latin). Mantaray plans to bring the Verona to the U.S. to demonstrate the technology to boat manufacturers soon after its launch.
Says Simberg about the Dynamic Wing Technology, “If you remember ‘Intel Inside,’ they had their chip in all personal computers on the market, regardless of brand. That’s us in the boat market.”
More than a decade ago, Finnish sailor Janne Kjellman decided he wanted to develop a silent and sustainable motorboat. In 2016, he established Q Yachts to build an electric motorboat that offered the same sense of speed and silence you’d get on a performance sailing yacht.
Built in Finland and powered by twin Torqeedo 10-kW sailpods and a Torqeedo 30-kWh lithium battery, the sleek Q30 has a range of up to 60 nautical miles, a cruising speed of 9 knots and a top speed of 14 knots.
At 9 knots the Q30 has a range of 42 nautical miles, and at 14 knots a range of 21 nautical miles. An optional second battery can extend the range. The Q30 can be charged anywhere with a standard 230-volt dockside plug and has an option to add a Torqeedo fast charger.
The fiberglass hull is foam-cored, and like other builders, the company aims to offer a more sustainable hull made out of recycled plastic bottles.
According to Q Yachts CEO Johan Uunila, the company plans to bring the Q30 to the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March 2022.
This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue.