Only a few years ago, electric cars were still turning every head on the road. Today, some of the largest automotive manufacturers in the world are gearing up for an all-electric future, including General Motors, which plans to only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The marine industry is still in the very early stage of electrification, but a few companies are driving the green initiative forward. One of those pioneers is X Shore, a Swedish company dedicated to technological advancements and sustainable solutions.
X Shore’s Eelex 8000 made its official US debut at the Palm Beach International Boat Show, but the boat has already been delivered to three continents and has attracted global attention. The interest is easy to understand; the 26-foot, fully electric boat addresses many of the barriers to adoption, such as range and the limited charging infrastructure.
“There have been a lot of research hours going into the hull,” says Jenny Keisu, CEO of X Shore. “Before we started to produce it, it was done in tank tests in Norway.” The Eelex 8000 has a reportedly industry-leading range of 100 nm (or 20+ hours) when traveling at slower speeds between 6-8 knots. But owners don’t just have to troll along slowly–the boat can travel for 2 hours at 25 knots, and it can reach a top end of 35 knots.
One of the biggest barriers for electric adoption in the marine industry is range anxiety – electric boats cannot travel as far as most combustion-powered vessels, and the limited charging infrastructure leaves many worried about heading too far from the dock. The Eelex 8000 addresses these concerns. In addition to offering a substantial range, the boat’s software helps owners plan their route so they know just what speed they need to travel to get to their destination. Plus, the boat can be charged in any electrical outlet where you plug in your cellphone.
The boat’s internal software has a range of other capabilities as well. Owners can connect to the boat through their Garmin watch or smartphone. When the boat senses the watch approaching, it goes into standby mode, and the owner can start the vessel with the press of a button, much like on modern automobiles. If the owner falls overboard, the boat will sense that the watch is underwater and shut down, providing added safety.
The software is also constantly collecting data about the vessel. “One hundred and fifty data points per second are downloaded from each boat, so we can do predictive maintenance and also optimize the performance,” says Keisu. Overall, the boat should require less maintenance than one powered by a combustion engine, and most repairs can be done remotely over the software.
X Shore is continually tuning the Eelex 8000, and it can roll out every upgrade to owners through the software. Currently, it is working on an autodocking feature, which it will push out to all existing owners once complete. “It is very easy for us to keep improving the boat for the customers,” Keisu says.
The company’s commitment to green innovation is not limited to the boat’s powertrain alone. “There’s a serious mission to not disturb the nature when we’re out in it, so we want the boats to be as sustainable as possible,” says Keisu. Therefore, in addition to offering the hull as a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber, the company has a flax fiber option as well. This is combined with a green epoxy that is 40% plant-based for a more biodegradable structure. The boat also uses cork instead of traditional teak.
“Fiberglass needs to be crushed, but that is not an issue with flax fibers,” Keisu says. However, the company does not anticipate that owners will need to dispose of their boats anytime soon; the batteries can reportedly last for 30-60 years, and they can easily be replaced once depleted. Therefore, the Eelex 8000 was designed to be modular to meet owners’ changing needs over its long lifespan.
The boat comes as a bareboat design, and owners can opt for different layout modules, including fishing, social, watersport and diving designs. These modules then clip onto two aluminum rails inside the boat.
“One of the reasons why we do this is so it will be very efficient in production, and also so owners can swap,” Keisu says. Owners can purchase multiple modules to suit their diverse cruising needs (Keisu says that they are easy to interchange with two adults), and if they want to sell the boat in the future, they will be able to market it towards a broader clientele, as new owners can simply swap in their desired layout.
The marine industry may still be trailing behind the automotive industry by a few years, but the innovations X Shore is presenting are promising for a more sustainable future. The company plans on delivering close to 80 boats this year and increasing its capacity to 400 next year as it scales production. It hopes to begin assembling boats in the US by the end of 2021 or early 2022.