9 Ways Electrons Can Carry You Across the Water

New electric jet skis, lake boats, super yachts, and marine ferries are using batteries and electric motors to revolutionize the maritime industry.
  • Introduction

    With the growing popularity of electric cars, trucks, busses, airplanes, and even motorcycles, it was only a matter of time before electrification hit the waves with everything from electric jet skis to solar and battery powered mega-yachts. Although at first glance it might seem that electricity and water don’t mix well, electric power actually found its way into marine craft early—submarines from World War I onward until the advent of nuclear-power have been driven by batteries and electric motors when submerged.

    At the other end of the size scale, tiny electric trolling motors, powered by simple 12-volt car batteries, have been helping anglers catch “the big one” for decades. Meanwhile, deep sea bathyscaphes and remote and manned undersea vehicles have also counted on battery energy since the early days of the Alvin manned submersible, which was first launched in 1964. In fact, they couldn’t operate without the compact energy that batteries can provide.

    Now, with the advent of reliable, high-capacity lithium ion battery systems, a variety of new and exciting water craft are benefitting from electrification. Some of these new designs are strictly for fun, while others are becoming low-emission workhorses that may point the way to a cleaner maritime industry.

    Here we have assembled some examples of what is available now and what will be coming soon as the lithium ion battery technology developed for electric land-based vehicles is finding its way onto the water.

    Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

    (Image source: Corvus Energy)

  • Nikola WAV Watercraft

    Nikola Motors is known for its electric heavy duty trucking concepts, which promise to compete with the electric Semi that Tesla has been promoting. But Nikola bought the electric watercraft company Free Form Factory in 2017 and has been working on several personal watercraft ever since.

    The Nikola WAV (Water Adventure Vehicle) is an all-electric sit-down machine that features a 12-inch waterproof display in the dashboard and LED lights at the front and rear. The WAV has sport-bike type ergonomics and “wakeboard” architecture. The Nikola WAV is expected to hit the market in 2020, although no pricing has been announced.

    (Image source: Nikola Motors)

  • Narke Electroject

    The Hungarian company Narke hopes that its new Electroject personal watercraft will beat its potential competitors into production to become the world's first electric personal watercraft (PWC) that you can actually buy. The Electrojet has a carbon-fiber body and 60-horsepower (45-kW) and the company claims the sit-down jet ski is capable of doing 35 mph (55 km/h), all while being nearly silent.

    The lithium-ion battery pack of the Electrojet is said to provide up to 90-minutes of riding time and can be recharged in about 2 hours from 0-80 percent. The company started taking pre-orders in February 2019, but the exact production date or price of the electric PWC are unclear.

    (Image source: Narke)

  • Go-Float Vortex

    In 2001, Bart Jones in Minnesota began developing a small electrically-powered, boat that could be used on Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. By 2008, he began production of the Go-Float Sunlounger series of electric boats. The flagship Vortex is the largest boat made by the company and provides room for up to three passengers.

    The standard Vortex model is powered by a single 12v permanent magnet brushed DC electric motor which achieves a top operating speed of approximately 4 MPH while the Vortex GT model is powered by a single 24v motor which runs approximately twice as fast. These are not speedboats, but are fine for puttering around a lake. At a normal cruising speed of 3-4 miles per hour, a fully charged battery will provide over 2 hours of continuous operation. The company reports that under typical ‘go-stop-go’ usage a fully charged battery will usually have enough power to operate for an entire day. The Vortex has a list price of $5,995, while the list price on the Vortex GT is $6,995.

    (Image source: Go-Float)

  • Electric Outboard Motors

    What if you already have a boat and want to convert it to electric drive? Several companies build electric outboard motors that can replace the gasoline engine on your boat’s transom to provide electric propulsion. Some companies, like Torqueedo, specialize in smaller motors that are typically used to power small and mid-sized sailboats. Other companies, like the Austrian company Aquawatt, have a range of AC outboard motors that go up to 70-horsepower that have list prices between $10,000 and $20,000 USD.

    (Image source: Aquawatt)

  • Duffy Electric Boat

    The Duffy Electric Boat is built at a factory in Southern California and has been in continuous production since 1970. Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, started the business after running his motorboat out of gas, and rigging up a battery from an electric golf cart. The electric drive motor is integrated as part of the rudder to provide exceptional maneuverability. The boats (which have the styling of an old steam launch) are each built to order and are sold through a dealer network in the US, Australia, and Sweden.

    The Duffy uses old-school lead-acid batteries (golf-cart batteries) that take up to 12 hours to charge. Top speed is a leisurely 5 mph and the boat can operate up to 3.5 hours on a single charge (assuming calm conditions). Various different length models are available and prices start around $45,000 for an 18-foot Snug Harbor model.

    (Image source: Duffy Electric Boat)

  • Q-Yachts Q30

    Q-Yacht got its start developing electric propulsion systems for sailboats. Now it has launched its fully-electric Q30 super yacht. The 9.3- meter long Q30 can carry up to eight people in comfort and is equipped with a 20 kilowatt AC motor. This provides a top speed of 15 knots and a cruising speed of 9 knots. Range at cruising speed with the standard 30 kWh lithium ion battery pack is 42 nautical miles—an optional 60 kWh pack extends that to 80 nm. The Q30 is built in Finland with a starting price over $200,000 USD.

    (Image source: Q-Yachts)

  • Hinckley Dasher

    The Hinckley Company started in 1928 as the Manset Boatyard in Southwest Harbor, Maine.  In time, the company became known for it’s innovative, and stylish motor yachts. The company was among the first to use fiberglass as early as the 1950s. Today, Hinckley remains the only builder using Carbon and Kevlar composite from bow to stern vacuum-infused with epoxy for incredible strength. 

    The Hinckley Dasher has been designed exclusively for electric propulsion. The Dasher has a carbon epoxy composite hull which contains dual 40-kWh BMW i3 lithium ion battery packs to provide energy to power the vessel. Propulsion is provided by twin 80-horsepower electric motors. The cruising speed is 10 mph, and at this speed the range is reported to be 40 miles. At a “fast-cruising” speed of 18-27 mph, the range drops to approximately 25 miles. Dual 50-amp charging cables are provided to allow rapid recharging from zero to a full charge in under 4 hours at dockside.

    The price for the 28.6-foot Dasher is not provided, but other Hinckley motor yachts of this size sell for in excess of $500,000, so the Dasher can be expected to be in that price range or above.

    (Image source: Hinckley)

  • Silent Yachts Silent 55

    The goal of Silent Yachts is to produce a luxury super yacht that is capable of sustainably traveling up to 100 miles per day, using only energy collected from its vast array of solar panels. A 140 kWh battery pack made from Panasonic lithium ion batteries is provided for nighttime use and to provide extra energy on cloudy days. A Diesel range extender is also available. The Silent 55’s solar panels can generate up to 60 kWh of electricity during a sunny day. Cruising speed for the Austrian-made yacht is 6-8 knots and top speed can be as high as 20 knots. With solar panels providing the energy, the range is effectively unlimited. The price for the 55-foot Silent 55 starts around $1.6 million (USD).

    (Image source: Silent Yachts)

  • Ampere Electric Ferry Boat

    Don’t have the spare couple of million dollars an all-electric super yacht costs? You can still enjoy the silent beauty of electrified maritime propulsion—but you’ll have to go to Norway to do so. The ferry Ampere was put into service in May 2015 operating between Lavik, and Oppedal, in Norway. The Ampere covers the 5.6 kilometer distance 34 times each day and recharging takes place in each village, using hydroelectric power for true zero-emissions operation.

    The Ampere carries enough lithium ion batteries on-board for a capacity over 1 megawatt-hour. The ship is powered by two 450 kW Siemens electric motors. The 80 meter long vessel has been so successful (decreased emissions by 95% and costs by 80%, when compared to standard ferries), that an additional electric ferry (Elektra) began service in Finland in 2017. According to the builder, Fjellstrand Shipyar, 53 additional electric ferries have been ordered.

    (Image source: Corvus Energy)

 

 

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