Is there a demand for electrification?
I think it’s clear that there is a demand, and I think it’s apparent in the car industry; once there is a product on the market that serves the need of the customer and doesn’t mean dropping all comforts – there will be a huge demand. The industry I operate in – the boating industry – the issue has been that it’s kind of impossible to electrify a boat. They require so much energy that you don’t get very far if you make it electric. The range issue is much harder to crack than is seen in the car industry for example. That’s what’s holding us back. I think we can say – based on the demand we’ve seen so far – this market is great and there’s a lot of costumers out there willing to pay a premium for an electrical boat. Interestingly, we’ve seen most of them come from owning an electric car. We have some 150 pre-orders now and 90% of those pre-orders come from a home that owns a Tesla.
The current market is very small. How long will it take to grow?
I think development always takes longer than you think. I remember when I tried out the internet for the first time, back in 1994, and then just a year later every company was in a panic because they weren’t prepared for the internet revolution. Now, 25 years later, you see that e-commerce is around 10% of the total retail and growing. I think it’s fair to say the same thing about the electrification of the car industry; it’s taken much longer than anyone expected, and the boating industry is less competitive so there is not a lot of interest or focus on R&D. I think it will take even longer in the industry to convert. It’s hard to predict.
The main problem we’ve tried to crack is that it takes a boat of the size we are building (around 25 feet), roughly fifteen times more fuel per kilometer than your Volvo. A boat this size is hugely inefficient. We use hydrofoil technology, which by the way is a very old technology, combined with modern electronics and software. We have wings that are fully submerged underwater, and they are very efficient but makes the boat unstable. By using modern technology, we can make the boat stable again. If you use the modern composite technology and push that hard, then we reach an overall efficiency gain of roughly 75%. Electrification is possible because we can get the range and speed that’s needed by most costumers at that point. That is the core problem of the industry today – the range is not good enough – and you have to pay more for an inferior product.
How did the idea of Candela Speed Boat start?
For me personally, I was a bit bored by having moved around in general management positions. They were often companies with very mature products as well. I’m an engineer and found I was mostly doing administration. I wanted to get back into product development, so I left the company I was working at and started looking for something else.
I was at my summer house and realized how much gasoline our motorboat needed. Then I started thinking about what can be done on a boat. What I found was that if you combine the hydrofoil technology that we are using and put wings underneath the water to lift the entire boat out of the water, combining that with carbon fiber composite technology which makes the boat lighter, you can cut the energy consumption by 75% roughly. That was fairly easy to calculate on a napkin at the time and then I thought, “nobody has done that”.
Is there an economic benefit coming from electrification?
No, not yet. We are in the recreational boat business and if you look at statistics, the average motorboat is not used many hours per year. Given the cost of batteries, you have to drive a lot to reach a return on investment in a classical business analysis. However, I think it’s important to start this journey now because the battery technology will develop while the complexity of an electrical drivetrain is much lower than a gasoline motor. I’m sure in the not-so-distant future, the price will come down so much that you can start to compete with combustion engines.
What will be the impact?
It has an impact on carbon emissions to start with. The type of technology we’ve developed with this boat can be applied for all boats from zero up to 30 or 40 meters. Except for carbon emissions, you have the fact that regulations on engines for the marine industry is very relaxed compared to what you see in the car industry. You have a lot of other toxic hydrocarbons coming out in the sea which is not good; we get rid of that and we have the benefit of not making any wakes or noise. Wherever you’ll be driving your boat, whether it be the archipelago or your lake, it will become more silent and nicer to be in.
What are your upcoming milestones?
The major milestone right now is to go from the prototype development stage to producing real boats to real costumers. I think we’ll be fairly exhausted after this summer. After, we have quite a few interesting technology projects that we’re going to dive right into. They will address both noise topics, efficiency topics, cost topics, as well as comfort – how we deal with waves for example. This boat, already now, doesn’t get very affected by waves – you don’t have the typical slamming that you have on normal boats. We’re going to continue push in several relevant directions. Then, we will move into automation because if we’re going to make this into something meaningful – like having an environmental impact – then we need to deal with the fact that these boats are very expensive to build and require a high-demand process. We will get into a more car industry-type of production and thereby offset the high cost we have because we’re electric.
Why is Candela Speed Boat Betting on Electrification?
We need all of us to do what we can to deal with climate change. This is our time and our tiny contribution.