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Zeus: Flying Candela's electric boat across San Francisco Bay, the EV promise takes hold
Swedish company's deal with Polestar for batteries in next generation models lays claim for the 'Tesla of electric boats.'
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(David Callaway is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Callaway Climate Insights. He is the former president of the World Editors Forum, Editor-in-Chief of USA Today and MarketWatch, and CEO of TheStreet Inc.)
SAUSALITO, Calif. (Callaway Climate Insights) — Bumping across the waves in San Francisco Bay, Tanguy de Lamotte throws the throttle forward on the electric Candela C-7 powerboat and I turn around as we ‘take off’ and begin to seemingly fly over the water, the wake disappearing into a thin line behind us.
The next thing I know the noise of the boat making its way through the waves has gone and we are hovering above them in silence at about 22 knots (25 mph), riding a winged set of foils just below the surface with the hull completely out of the water. What’s more, at 22 knots we’re using 1 kilowatt hour of energy, just about the same amount it took for us to plow through the waves at 5 knots.
“That’s how much more efficient the foiling is,” said de Lamotte, CEO of Candela US and a former round-the-world sailor who made it in 98 days in 2012 during the prestigious Vendee Globe race. “And it’s less stressful for the passengers. You can talk.”
The C-7 is a test drive model made by Swedish electric boat maker Candela, which is vying to become the early claimant to the title of “Tesla of the Sea” with about 100 other electric boat manufacturers, including General Motors GM 0.00%↑, Pure Watercraft and a Los Angeles company called Arc Boats, whose investors reportedly include Will Smith and Kevin Durant.
While the electric car, bus and truck markets have all been hailed as key components of the energy transition to renewables, boats and shipping in general have been somewhat left behind. Like most electric road vehicles, Candela offerings carry a price tag unattainable by most people — more than $300,000, plus shipping from Sweden.
But de Lamotte said the company is actively scouting a U.S. manufacturing facility to produce the next generation of its boats — the C-8 — inside the country. For now, it is offering test drives to potential wealthy customers on San Francisco Bay and it has debuted the boat at boat shows in places such as Cannes in the South of France, and Venice.
Last month, Candela announced a joint venture with Polestar PSNY 0.00%↑, the Swedish electric vehicle maker, to use Polestar batteries in the C-8. The two companies said the boats will use 80% less energy than traditional motorboats by using military aircraft technology to steady the hydrofoils as the boat soars above the waves.
David Callaway explains why this column is called Zeus in The coming battle with the climate gods: How mortal innovators and investors will save the planet.
But like the early Teslas TSLA 0.00%↑, it’s really the novelty of the technology that is the draw, more than the fact that it’s saving energy. The C-7 uses a flat-screen display, like a Tesla, for drivers to monitor speed, distance, energy usage, etc. He said the boat weighs about 2800 pounds, and has a range of about 45 nautical miles. The C-8s are supposed to reach almost 60 nautical miles.
As I drove the C-7 across the bay, it took very little instruction to figure out how to rise and fall into the water and to turn without throwing the hydrofoils off. Even then, we would just land in the water safely.
As with all electric vehicles, one of the issues around them is charging. De LaMotte says the Candela boats take about seven hours to charge. But unlike with road vehicles, many dockyards already have charging stations at each slip because other boat owners use them to charge their refrigerators and other onboard appliances. So the infrastructure is already there.
While foiling is nothing new for sailors and windsurfers, or even gas-powered ferries, Candela takes it a step further with its electric watercraft.
“To bring foiling and electric transport together makes a lot of sense,” said de LaMotte, as he ties up the C-7 back in Sausalito’s harbor. He said Candela has sold about 30 C-7s to date, including nine in the U.S. With the new battery on the C-8 and a U.S. manufacturing plant, the company is hoping to become an early leader in the electric boat market.
It’s also working on a small ferry boat on contract with the city of Stockholm in its home country. While there are plenty of boating stocks, such as MarineMax HZO 0.00%↑ or MasterCraft Boat Holdings MCFT 0.00%↑, there are no real pure-play boating EV makers, yet. If Candela’s technology is anything to go by, however, it is just a matter of time.
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