Why boatbuilder Brunswick isn’t about to make a floating Tesla

This does not mean that Brunswick does not invest in electric boats; It is. The builder of Boston Whaler boats and Mercury Marine engines aim launch five electric propulsion products by 2023 and offer electric models in four different boat categories on the same schedule. But if you’re looking for a man hyped on boat electrification, Foulkes is not the guy. He graduated in aerospace engineering and spent nearly two decades with Ford Motor Co., but he also appreciates old-fashioned common sense.

Boats, after all, operate in the water. To state the obvious, this is not the most ideal environment for electric power. Brunswick and other boat builders need to worry much more than electric car makers about sealants, electric grounds and how to prevent uncontrolled deluges of moisture from frying. the whole system. **

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The compatibility of battery technology with open water bodies is decently understood for low power applications in the 50 to 60 volt range; much less to the energy levels of an electric car, Foulkes said. This is because it is not recommended that someone drive a Tesla Inc. car – or any car for that matter – in the ocean. Boats generally need more power to pass through water than cars need to pass through air. This is especially true in the oceanic environments of Florida and the Northeast, which are among the largest boat markets in the United States, but boats must also float, which means you can’t just use a boat. automotive battery designed for higher speeds and longer. ranges in them and call it good. Some Tesla batteries weigh around 1,000 pounds, for example.

The result is that even with the latest and greatest automotive-derived battery technology, “you can’t really deliver the same utility in terms of range and speed as with a contemporary combustion setup,” said Foulkes. The main market for electric boats today is small lakes and waterways where distance requirements are limited and speeds are lower. Most of the interest comes from Europe where certain municipalities are highly dependent on maritime traffic, including Amsterdam and Venice – have decided to ban or limit the use of gasoline or diesel models. The market is even more niche in the United States; one of the most popular applications is electric dinghies which transport the well-heeled from the dock to their parked yachts, Foulkes said. He estimates that around 90% of electric models sold today run below 10 horsepower. Bow, an electric boat startup supported by Andreessen Horowitz and composed of former SpaceX employees, considering offering a 475 horsepower model by the end of this year, but the ship measures less than 25 feet and costs $ 300,000.

“The common feature is that they cost a lot of money and don’t have much use,” said Foulkes, speaking generally of the electric boats currently available. By comparison, 90% of the boats Brunswick sells cost less than $ 100,000. Her average customer earns about $ 140,000 a year. Consumers typically don’t spend as much on fuel for their boats as they do for their cars, complicating the cost-benefit analysis of switching to electric, Foulkes said. “I don’t want to paint the picture as it’s not possible,” he said. But the industry needs to be pragmatic about where battery technology may be a good choice while continuing to invest in improving the environmental footprint of combustion engines and exploring other alternatives such as e-fuels and hydrogen, he says.


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