There are several new companies that want to become the Tesla of the ocean. Electric boats are growing in popularity because they eliminate the harmful pollution and noise of conventional fossil-fuel motors, allowing you to enjoy the sounds of nature and the water. In addition to helping prevent climate change, you also save on maintenance because there are fewer moving parts, and no winterization is needed. Potential customers can either buy a new electric boat, like the one shown in the photo above from Voltaire (also check out their competitors such as Silent-Yachts, Zinboats, Candela, X Shore, and ArcBoats) or go with a company such as Torqeedo, Oceanvolt, Pure Watercraft, or Stealth Electric Outboards that offers electric outboard motors to convert your existing boat. To help keep Boston Harbor clean, there is even a company named Boston Electric Boats that rents out only electric boats.
Another advantage is that electric engines are around 75% cheaper to run, in terms of the cost of the electricity vs the gasoline. And like with a Tesla, they have almost instant acceleration, which is something many boaters appreciate, while the complete absence of oil residue, toxic fumes, and noise pollution is something the marine life will appreciate.
Many electric boats are built for slowly driving around a harbor or lake, while others such as the Zin Boat can go up to 35mph, with a range of 80-100 miles (powered by a BMW i3 battery, it recharges using a 110V or a 220V plug, making life much easier). Sailboats can also be a good fit for an electric motor, as it is only needed for short durations, like when there is no wind, or for heading into the harbor or marina. And in Norway and Finland, electric ferries have been successfully running for several years.
The first electric boat was built by German inventor Moritz von Jacobi in 1839 in Russia. It had a top speed of 3 miles per hour, was 24 feet in length, and carried 14 passengers. From the 1880s to the 1920s electric boats became popular but were eventually replaced by gas-powered motors. The recent resurgence is due to dramatic advances in battery technology and solar power, as well as the growing concern about global warming. Just like with the electric car market, adoption has started off slow due to high prices and limited availability, but sales are projected to reach $10 billion by 2026.
Another advantage of electric boats is that they can much more easily be autonomously controlled, as compared to a standard boat. This means, like with a Tesla, it can use artificial intelligence to be “self-driving”. We will explore that topic further in our next blog posting.