Charged up!

Partnerships bring electric propulsion to the next level

By Adam Quandt

“Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam and admit that the waters have grown…For the times they are a-changin’.”

Now most of us know Bob Dylan wasn’t talking about the recreational boating industry when he released his 1964 track, however the words certainly strike a chord as the industry moves through times of evolution.

Is the boating industry going to all-electric options at the flip of a switch? No. Will the recreational fleet of boats in the marketplace be made up of only electric-powered boats? No – at least not anytime in the near future. However, that doesn’t mean alternative power sources, especially electric, aren’t gaining more traction in boating.

A 2022 report from Allied Market Research stated that the global electric boat market was valued at $5 billion in 2021 and expected to climb to $16.6 billion by 2031. As consumer wants continue to evolve and the spotlight increases on sustainability, manufacturers are placing more and more emphasis on electric solutions in the boating industry.

The stage for electric-powered boats seems to be growing at an exponential pace. The 2023 Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show debuted a brand-new electric pavilion, featuring some of the newest technological advancements in the marketplace – including fully-electric boats, outboards, personal watercraft and accessories in between.

The new pavilion was in part the brainchild of Top 100 dealer Nautical Ventures out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and their efforts to partner with some of the major manufacturers in the space. “We launched a dedicated electric boat and ‘yacht toy’ division back around 2016 with the mindset that ‘orange is the new green’ and we’ve been exploring new partnerships in the market ever since,” Nautical Ventures CEO Roger Moore said.

Partnerships have been the name of the game in the electric marine arena. Manufacturers like Torqeedo, Ingenity – a Correct Craft company – Mercury Marine and others are quickly stacking up partnerships to bring electric propulsion to more and more boaters.

At the close of 2022, Beneteau premiered two new electric sailing yachts, the Oceanis 30.1 and the First 44, which feature electric propulsion systems from Torqeedo. “The partnership between Groupe Beneteau and Torqeedo continues to bring exciting new vessels to the marine market, expanding the opportunities for boaters to go 100% emission-free,” Torqeedo CEO Fabian Bez said at the time of the announcement.

After debuting two models in back-to-back years, Ingenity launched a new partnership with Hacker-Craft in late 2022. In the agreement, Ingenity signed a multi-year supply and marketing agreement to provide and install all-electric drivetrains in a variety of Hacker-Craft boats.

“I have admired Hacker-Craft’s products from afar for many years, and the Ingenity team is humbled to be part of this project,” said Sean Marrero, President of Ingenity. “We stand on the shoulders of the giants who started these companies a century ago. Now it is our turn to lay the foundation for an exciting future for our companies and customers.”

“It’s clear the environmental concerns are driving the entire boating industry towards electric propulsion,” said George Badcock, CEO of Hacker Boat Company. “Electric propulsion enables owners to go boating in accordance with their values while preparing them for the new electric reality, whether for lake boating, coastal cruising, or aboard superyachts. “We’ve already seen an increasing number of inquiries about electric and hybrid propulsion. The partnership between Hacker Boat Company and ingenuity Electric has come together at the perfect moment.”

In addition to the Hacker-Craft announcement, Ingenity also announced a strategic partnership with Aqua superPower, a company working toward building a fully electric infrastructure of local charging networks across the global marine market.

“Ingenity will continue to lead the way in enabling boaters to do what they love on the water in a more sustainable way, but electrification is about more than just boats,” Marrero said. “We must also come alongside like-minded companies to provide the next generation of infrastructure, distribution, and support.  There is nobody doing more on the marine charging side than Aqua superPower, and we are happy to be working closely with them to create a better tomorrow today for more boating customers.”

As of late 2022, Aqua superPower has been working to roll out its network of marine fast chargers with installations in the U.S. at Lake Tahoe and Lake Michigan, and in Europe along the Cote d’Azur (France), Venice (Italy), Spain, Portugal, Sweden and the U.K.

“Electric boats need charging and chargers need boats,” Scott Canning, VP Business Development USA of Aqua superPower said. “Our strategic alliance with Ingenity adds to the growing stable of leading electric boat makers Aqua superPower is working with to drive and develop marine fast charging interoperability, safety, and compatibility standards. We are very excited to partner with such a prestigious boat brand as Ingenity to jointly facilitate the adoption of sustainable, clean boating.”

Well-known for its ICE propulsion systems, Brunswick’s Mercury Marine has quickly been ramping up in the electric landscape. In May 2023, Mercury announced an agreement with JJE — a company focused on electrified propulsion components, assemblies and systems for global automotive applications – to enable the engine builder to expand its portfolio of electric propulsion solutions.

Following the partnership announcement and after launching its 7.5e at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, Mercury announced the initiation of serial production of its new 20e and 35e Avator electric propulsion systems, with release for sale planned for later in 2023.

Mercury Marine VP of e-solutions Perissa Bailey told Boating Industry that the company has already committed to the production of five 48V electric Avator propulsion systems across various power ranges.

“This has been a long-running project at Mercury as we begin to understand who the electric customer is and what their needs are,” Bailey said. “Our goal is for Mercury to provide a no-compromise solution, leaning on our rich 80-plus-year history to drive us forward as a leader.”

Combating the critics

As we’ve taken note from other industries and their experience in the electric marketplace, it’s not quite always a smooth sailing scenario and the marine environment provides its own plethora of challenges.

Moore and his team at Nautical Ventures have acted as one of the first marine dealers to really embrace and shine a spotlight on electric in the marine space.

“There are plenty of obstacles when adopting and trying to sell a new technology and I’ll be the first to tell you there have been some hurdles we’ve fallen on along the way,” Moore said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep pushing forward and finding new ways to do things. We just have some questions that need to be answered yet and some problems that don’t have solutions just yet. It will get there, but it will take time.”

Moore, along with many manufacturers, look at the electric marine marketplace as a long-term play and believe we as an industry are in a learning period right now.

Vision Marine Technologies – formerly known as the Canadian Electric Boat Co. – is taking on some of the common critiques of electric head on.

At the 2022 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, Vision Marine went up against electric speed critics with a 32-foot catamaran powered by the company’s proprietary E-Motion electric outboard motor and powertrain system. In two runs, the fully-electric boat hit 104 and 109 MPH, respectively, breaking the previous record.

However, Vision Marine isn’t stopping at speed. The manufacturer is now taking on the range side of electric critics with an attempt at an endurance record for electric boats. In late July, a 23-foot triton powered by twin E-Motion outboards and equipped with a solar array will embark on what the manufacturer hopes will be a 1,050-mile journey over 17 days.

“At Vision Marine Technologies, our team is driven by a common purpose: to raise awareness about the immense potential of sustainable electric power and to sensitize individuals to the environmental impact of internal combustion engines in the recreational marine propulsion system,” the company said in a statement announcing the challenge. “We strive to demonstrate what can be achieved sustainably through electric power, and we are determined to educate and inspire others to join us in reducing waterway pollution.”

Despite critics and challenges ahead, electric seems to be here to stay in the recreational boating industry. And one can only expect to see further partnerships to emerge as technology continues to evolve and forever change the boating landscape.

“We’ve already seen so many customers and potential customers ‘going green’ in their garages and in their homes,” Mercury’s Bailey said. “It’s now on us to not just embrace technology for technology’s sake, but really understand what these different customers want and need, and how we can meet those wants and needs.”

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