The concept of electric boats generates quite a lot of debate. In this article, we dispel 8 commonly heard myths, while offering a realistic perspective on the latest generation of electric boats in comparison to traditional motor boats. At the end of the article, you will also have the opportunity to drive one!
Electric boats have undoubtedly gained much popularity in the past years, whether they are equipped with hybrid or pure electric propulsion1. With growing concerns towards ocean preservation, the rise in pollution by gasoline-powered combustion boats and the need to reduce carbon footprint, sustainability and eco-consciousness have become the trends influencing the global yachting industry. As a matter of fact, the new generation of yacht owners look for eco-friendly vessels, and aim at having the lowest environmental impact possible, by also implementing sustainable management policies on board, from waste management to the use of fair trade or organic certified products.
The segment of (recreational) electric tenders is still very niche, whereas utility electric boats have been around for a while. As for any niche and unfamiliar product, doubts and myths spread easily. Wasn’t it the case for electric vehicles (EVs) when they first launch? There was much scepticism around the concept. And yet, sales of EVs have reached 2.1 million globally in 2019, accounting for 2.6% of global car sales, and registered a 40% year-on-year increase2. Now Tesla leads the market and Formula E is part of worldwide racing championship calendars since 2014.
Electric boats have already demonstrated to have several significant advantages compared to combustion boats. To name a few, they are silent, they don’t emit greenhouse gases or smoke, they cause less vibrations, require less engine maintenance and allow for substantial savings on fuel.
With a global market worth US$ 4.49 Bn in 2018, expecting to reach US$ 12.32 Bn by 20273, it’s time to get rid of all the recurrent myths about electric boats!
Myth #1: Marine electric propulsion is just another new trend
Hybrid and electric boats have existed for over 100 years. They were very popular from the 1880s until the 1920s, when gasoline-powered outboard motors were adopted as the norm. The first electric boat was developed by the German inventor Moritz von Jacobi in 1838 and was presented to the Emperor Nicholas I of Russia on the Neva River. The 24-foot (7.3 m) boat had a passenger capacity of 14 and a speed of 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h).
Myth #2: Navigating on an electric dayboat means less autonomy and freedom
The new generation of electric boats –just like Lanéva’s– are equipped with the latest technology and systems, such as real time autonomy indicators for each engine, leaving no room for bad surprises. In other words, you can know at any given time the level of battery’s consumption and plan your journey accordingly.
As the name implies, dayboats are used for single day trips, namely, for less than 24 hours. Such small yachts are thus designed to offer an autonomy that meets this type of usage. For example, a Lanéva boat offers sufficient autonomy to allow you to sail from Monaco to Cannes (back and forth) on a single charge.
In addition, more and more harbours are being equipped with charging stations (or superchargers), making it ideal and safe to sail. This said, it is worth mentioning that a normal electric plug (available in most ports and in all ports in the Mediterranean), are sufficient to recharge an e-boat.
Myth #3: Electric boats run with less power and energy than ICE boats
This statement is partially true. Although many advancements in battery technology allow for longer run-time and higher speed, the energy density of today’s batteries don’t compete quite yet with fossil fuels.
However, if we make a parallel with the electric car industry –which feeds the maritime one in terms of manufacturing, motor propulsion and battery engineering– some studies demonstrate that, in reality, electric motors show higher energy efficiency than fuel engines.
As stated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “EVs convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 12%–30% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.”4
An electric engine can instantly provide full torque and reach full power as there is no waste of energy due to mechanical losses, which is the case with combustion engines.
In fact, and according to Lynch Motors and to some data claimed by London Innovations5, “the average internal combustion engine actually wastes significant amounts of energy through mechanical losses, particularly through gears and bearings, as well as through propeller losses. A 7hp internal combustion engine may drive the boat at 5mph, but possibly 20hp will be needed to get it up to 6mph. An electric engine achieves much greater efficiencies and at 5mph a 1.6kW engine (ie 2.1hp) could be adequate for a job for which a much more powerful petrol or diesel engine would need to be used.”
How can we not mention that the 60-feet racing yacht Malizia, helmed by famous German sailor Boris Herrmann, will be optimised with BMW i battery technology for the world’s toughest non-stop solo race, the Vendée Globe 2020!
On a side note, Torqeedo also offers a comparative study on outboard motor performances, using propulsive power as a meaningful performance indicator. The study shows that “electric motors can achieve the same propulsive power as combustion engines with significantly lower shaft power”.
Myth #4: Electric boats are slow
Perhaps we are inclined to associate electric boats with those slow ferries, transportation or touristic boats that navigate on closed waters. Truth is, although they are still rare and more expensive, some electric motors are particularly powerful.
Have you heard of the SAY 29E by SAY Carbon, powered by a 360 kW electric motor, that hit a record of 50 knots (93 km/h, 57.5 mph)? Or of the all-electric, Jaguar’s battery-powered Vector V20E boat breaking the maritime speed record of 88,62 mph (about 142 km/h)? Now of course, the latter is a racing boat, not a runabout.
Comparatively, the 7.9-meter Lanéva boat can reach a top speed of 30 knots (55 km/h, 34,5 mph), as well as a range of approximately 40 nm at a speed of 20 knots (42,5 km/h, 23 mph). Those are high-performance characteristics, given the usage and purpose of a dayboat.
Myth #5: Electric boats mean inelegant and poor design
It’s enough to look at Lanéva boats’ shapes and lines to conclude that this statement is not valid. Here again, we might be misled by some clichés: we hear electric, we imagine small dinghies, team park or fishing boats when, in actuality, niche brands, such as Lanéva, prove that you can own a Riva-style 100% e-boat.
Indeed, Lanéva dayboat showcase the perfect combination of sustainability, modern lines, noble materials and luxury finishes. And since the brand is highly rooted in craftsmanship, a Lanéva boat can be customised according to its future owner’s preferences.
Moreover, what also makes Lanéva stand out is its approach in the conception and design of its boats. Unlike most yacht brands that work first on the design and then try to fit in a motor and battery, Lanéva proceeds the other way around considering first the kind of usage of the boat, then the type of battery (+ management system) and motor needed to support such usage, to finally work on the overall design and layout of the boat.
Need to see more? BOAT magazine put up a list of best electric superyacht tenders featuring slick design, while not compromising on comfort. And guess what? Lanéva ranks first.
Myth #6: No need to have a licence to drive an electric boat
The need for a licence has nothing to do with the type of motor boat you’re driving (fuel or electric). It rather depends on where you’re sailing (closed waters or open seas) and on the power of the engine. In France, for example, you need a boat licence if the motor power is above 4,5 kW (i.e. above 6 PH).
Myth #7: Electric boats are not fitted for water sports like wakeboard and water skiing
This is another myth. Electric boats turn out to be efficient recreational boats thanks to the immediate torque of the motor.
Let’s just have a look at Nautique, the world’s leading manufacturer of ski and wakeboarding boats. They’ve introduced their GS22-E at the Miami Boat Show –a 100% electric wakeboard boat, which battery allows for 2 to 3 hours of normal watersports use and can be recharged in as little as 90 minutes.
Lanéva boats are just as well equipped to allow for fun activities like water sports.
Myth #8: Electric boats take too long to charge
The complete charge of a Lanéva boat is about 3,5 hours with a 63A triphased socket. But as stated earlier (in myth #2), you only need to fully recharge your day sailer only once you’re back from your day trip. Actually, you can do so without having to spend the whole time at the port: in fact, Lanéva has developed a data management interface, which allows you to access all the boat’s data remotely.
This said, just in case you would have to fully recharge the boat’s battery during the day, 3 hours mean plenty of time for lunching, strolling in a new area and having a swim somewhere.
As promised, in this article we offered a realistic perspective on electric boats and addressed 8 commonly heard myths. Seeing is believing, however, so if you are truly interested in owning an electric boat, we invite you to book a test drive!
Sailing on a Lanéva boat is the easiest way to become familiar with the characteristics of the latest generation of electric boats and experience for yourself the difference to traditional motor boats.
If you’re interested to dig deeper in the subject, you might as well want to check our two other articles:
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1 For instance, in 2018, the hybrid Electric Boat captured the largest market size of approximately 70% according to the “Global Electric Boat Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2019 To 2027”
2 Global EV Outlook 2020 (https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2020)