Car companies have long dabbled in the yachting game, mainly by applying their design philosophies to anything from speedboats to medium-sized luxury yachts. In recent years we’ve seen Lamborghini, Brabus, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG appear on vessels, and now electrification is adding a new dimension.
Traditionally, yachts have been powered by engines from truck manufacturers such as MAN and Scania, or by outboards from the likes of Yamaha, but automakers are seeing a new opportunity and supplying their battery and electric motor technology to yacht builders.
The most recent to join the electric regatta is Porsche, which this week announced a partnership with Austrian shipyard Frauscher. From 2024 they plan to build 25 Frauscher x Porsche 850 Fantom Air yachts. Measuring 8.67 meres and based on an existing Frauscher yacht, they will feature a helm stand designed by Studio Porsche, though the collaboration goes much deeper than the design.
Porsche is in the final stages developing an all-electric Macan SUV and it will take that technology and place it in the hull of the yacht. This means a 100kWh lithium-ion battery pack, Porsche’s electric motor and its 800-volt charging technology. Porsche says the boats will have the performance and driving properties you expect of the brand, though we suspect its cornering ability won’t be quite as good.
BMW used the Cannes Film Festival to reveal The Icon, a collaboration with boat builder Tyde. Similarly, it uses BMW’s electric car technology, this time from the i3, which ceased production in 2022. Two i3 electric motors combine with six batteries with 240kWh of power to spur the vessel to a top speed of 30 knots (55km/h) with a range of about 100km.
Conceived by BMW’s Designworks, The Icon looks more like a water shuttle than a yacht, but it is packed with tech and luxury. It rises from the water on hydrofoils to use less power to slice through the water and create fewer waves. The exterior design replicates a prism with vast glass surfaces that not only provide plenty of visibility, but also make the interior as airy as possible.
Inside is a large lounge area with thick carpets and furniture made from metal sheeting. All the seats can rotate 360° and the vessel has a premium sound system created in part by famous movie soundtrack composer, Hans Zimmer.
The Icon has been created to be production ready for use by individual owners wanting an emission-free yacht, or for commercial use, as a water taxi, tourist boat or marina tender to transport guests of larger yachts. We can easily imagine a small fleet of these being used to take people across Table Bay to avoid the traffic or simply to take in the views.
Alternatively they could travel in the Candela C-8 Polestar edition. We came across boat builder Candela at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the start of the year, and now it has taken its partnership with Swedish electric car maker Polestar even further. The C-8 appears traditional at first glance, but its design has been inspired by Polestar models and it uses electric powertrain technology from the automaker.
That includes a 69kWh battery pack from the Polestar 2 to provide a range of up to 105km. The electric motor is Candela’s own, producing 75kW and enabling a cruising speed of 22 knots. Priced from $450,000, the C-8 Polestar is available as an open day cruiser, a T-top or with a carbon fibre hardtop featuring a retractable roof.
These all showcase actual or planned boats, but US automotive giant General Motors plans to retrofit older vessels with its Ultium battery architecture. It might be the huge and heavy Hummer EV that grabs the headlines, but GM has approached its electric so that components can be dropped into a classic car or even a boat.
When we visited the GM development facility in Milford, Michigan, last year we saw the electric drive units and modular battery packs placed in some iconic GM products such as the El Camino bakkie, but GM wants to see its powered solutions in trains, airports vehicles and recreational boats.
Converting classic cars to electric is becoming big business around the world, and doing the same for boats would make them silent zero emitters and maintenance would be reduced.