We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, electric boating makes so much sense. By that we mean boating, not cruising to Mauritius; your electric motor might struggle a bit with that sort of distance. But if you want to head across Harties or Theeswaterskloof, even along the Breede or the Klip, then an electric boat is quiet, good for the environment and let’s be honest, rather cool.
Going electric on the water also means adopting the latest tech, which is why there were a number of boat businesses at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
You might not have heard of Brunswick Corporation, but if you’re into boats then you’ll definitely know its brands, which include Mercury outboard engines and Sun Ray and Bayliner boats. It’s now also added Veer to its portfolio, a small vessel designed and engineered for first time leisure boaters who want something simple to have a bit of fun with, maybe take in a spot of fishing or just relax on the water. You can bolt a petrol outboard on the back, but Brunswick revealed the new model along with its new 48V Mercury Avator electric outboard that will be available in motors producing between 750w and 3500w at the propeller.
This is all great but what about the tech? Well, we got to experience Brunswick’s new helm simulator, which replicates life on board the Sea Ray 370. It even rocks with the waves and vibrates as it turns. It gave us a chance to experience the brilliant self-docking system which can scan a marina for a space using radar and then dock itself, all you have to do is choose which way in you want the boat to go. No doubt there are a few owners and a few nervous harbour masters who will appreciate this system. It’s a step towards autonomous yachting, not something that will appeal in its entirely to everyone of course.
Volvo Penta is a familiar name in propulsion and it too is trialling various electric motors, but at CES it had much more to talk about, This included Volvo Penta Island, a boating hub where vessels can be recharged, experiences can be curated and people can just hang out. It’s all part of what the company calls “Boating for Everyone” which aims to attract more people to the water through things like Boating as a Service for ownership and experiences, ease of use with things like autonomous technology and creating more communities.
One of the boats that might dock at these hubs could be the Candela C-8. It’s one of our stars of the show with its simple and beautiful design, but also because it’s electric and rises out of the water on awesome hydrofoils. Developed and built in Sweden, it uses a 44kWh battery pack from Volvo’s electric performance car brand Polestar. It can cover around 57 nautical miles at up to 22 knots and its clever hydrofoil can adjust one hundred times a second as it moves through the water. Its design is a combination of Nordic and Italian influences and while so far Candela has built three at a cost of €330,000 each, it has orders for another 150. We’re thinking a Polestar 2 and a Candela C-8 could well be our dream garage, although we obviously need to add a house on a river or lake to facilitate that.
Then there were the brands looking further into the future, such as Aqualines which is promising to revolutionise public transport on the water. Its concept uses hybrid electric or hydrogen engines, can be scaled up in size to accommodate between two and 300 people and can travel at up to 500km. Astonishingly though, the company claims its vessel will be able to reach speeds as high as 320km/h. Could we finally have a solution for crossing Table Bay in a few minutes? It’s early days for the company, which is about to start testing and development in France, so we’re still a way off from that much needed solution. One day.