Electric Speedboats: Making Waves with IoT

While the car industry has embraced electric vehicles and continues to move towards a fossil free future, the marine transportation industry has been lagging behind. Electric boats have been around in one form or another over 100-years, but they’ve always faced the same issue: they had speed without range, or they had range without speed. Sweden’s award-winning Candela Seven has changed all that, creating a sleek, stylish, sexy electric boat that goes fast and goes far without compromise. Add some IoT into the mix and you’ve got yourself one hell of a ride.

It all started with a trip to get ice cream. Candela founder Gustav Hasselskog was spending the summer in the Stockholm archipelago and whenever his kids wanted ice cream, he would hop in his 22-footer and drive to the nearest gas station to get them some. But while the ice cream cost around 50 Swedish kronor, the boat trip itself cost hundreds of kronor in fuel, which wasn’t cost effective or sustainable. This was when Hasselskog realized that something needed to change.

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Where people who have tried to do electric boats before that were comparable to a fossil-fuel boat have failed, Candela has succeeded.

A normal gasoline powered boats consumes around 15 times the energy of a standard family car, so if you want to lower emissions while also reducing running costs, you can’t have a normal fossil-fueled boat. Hasselskog wanted to build a fast, long-range electric boat that had reduced impact on the environment. In order to do that he didn’t turn to boat builders, he turned to other talent, such engineers, mathematicians, and software developers.

Candela isn’t a boating company

While a traditional boat builder might have some engineers to design hulls and other parts of the boat, Candela sees itself as a tech company, not a boat company. So, when it first began R&D in 2014, Gustav Hasselskog brought in experts from a variety of fields, such as hydro dynamics and the ergonomics industry, in order to address a lot of complicated challenges and create the electric boat of the future.

“Building a fast, long-range electric boat that has reduced impact on the environment means you need to reduce friction from the water,” explains Mikael Mahlberg, PR & Communications Manager at Candela. “But you can’t really have a normal boat hull and then load it up with batteries, because even with the best lithium ion batteries on the market – or even next generation – you will still get a really short range at high speeds because of the friction in the water. The only way to reduce that friction is to use hydrofoils, which are basically submerged wings under the hull that lift the boat above the water at speeds from 70 knots. We also brought in someone who had worked for Eurocopter and had previously made helicopters from carbon fiber.”

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This kind of expertise is crucial, because if you want to make a fast, electric boat with good range, you have to lift it up – and to lift it up, you have to make it extremely light.

The whole carbon fiber structure is extremely light. The hull and deck is 240 kg, which is very light for an almost 8-meter-long boat. For comparison, a similar fiberglass boat such as a Searay or Boston Whaler, would be almost 800 kg – so the lightness of the Candela Seven is a huge difference.

The most complicated part of building the Candela Seven, though, was the software. When you’re banking, a normal hydrofoil boat tends to lean outwards, but you don’t want that because it feels like you’re falling out of the boat. As a result, Candela had to have the hydrofoils lean into the curves. Mahlberg says cracking that algorithm was pretty tough, but they managed to do it – and they are the first ones in the world to have done so.

“Our digital control system balances the boat 100 hundred times per second,” explains Mahlberg. “So, the hydrofoil moves really fast – so fast that you can’t really even see it happening. The system is very similar to what you would find in a jet fighter, which is why we like to say the Candela Seven is more like an aircraft than a boat.”

For the driver you won’t notice much difference between the Candela Seven and a traditional fossil-fuel boat… at first. The computer is basically driving the boat, and your only input is the steering wheel and the throttle. It’s when you go full throttle that you notice the difference. The boat will first behave like a normal boat but then, after three or four seconds, you will notice that all the sounds of the waves and the choppy water will disappear because you’ve starting to fly above the surface.  And you don’t have to balance it with trim tabs like you would have on a regular planing, fossil-fueled boat – the computer handles all of that.  And you get a really good range of 50 nautical miles at 20 knots, which is a world record for an electric boat and three times better than the closest competitor.

“One big benefit of using hydrofoils and flying over the waves and over the choppy waters is we have gotten rid of sea sickness – it’s actually true!” says Mahlberg. “The boat is super stable when you’re driving in rough conditions. You won’t feel the waves, even if it’s stormy, because the craft balances itself.

“You also get superior sea keeping, as well as no wake behind the boat if you go fast. If you’re going 30 knots the wake is comparable to if you’re paddling a canoe, which is a huge benefit from an environmental perspective, because boats cause a lot of erosion on the coastline. Additionally, the Candela Seven could potentially go very fast in no-wake zones.”

Where IoT comes into the picture

When it comes to IoT, Candela is a prime example of an IoT-enabled product that uses IoT to serve customers globally. Data on everything from motor performance to the location of the boat is logged. If there is an anomaly in the electric systems, for example, Candela can track that and also fix it remotely. Connectivity saves a lot of time and money for both Candela and Candela’s customers. They don’t need service centers all over the world because most problems can be fixed remotely through connectivity and IoT.

“If you compare this with a traditional engine maker, if they have an error in one of their engines an alert will pop up on the screen in the boat and then you have to take the boat to the dealer to get it fixed,” explains Mahlberg. “This isn’t a good approach for us, because we’re a small company that exports all over the world. IoT allows us to troubleshoot problems remotely and also fix them remotely.”

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IoT and connectivity is crucial to what we do. You really have to log a lot of data to help customers around the globe – so this boat could not be done without IoT.

“For example, we had one guy who had an issue with the struts to the hydrofoil – you can retract them if you want to beach the boat or go into a shallow marina. They don’t normally fail but it did happen. He was pretty far away, and we didn’t have a service technician close by. But then, we didn’t need a service technician because one of our service engineers accessed the system and was able to see it was just a faulty sensor. So, five minutes after this guy phoned the problem with solved from the other side of the world. This is why IoT is a key component in our boats.”

Candela’s future

Candela didn’t just build this sexy, high-tech, sustainable roadster of the seas – Candela built a boat that is usable, sustainable, and ready for the market. And Candela is evolving the solution and to address other market segments, such as public transport.

If you look at the company that runs the ferries in the Stockholm archipelago, one third of their costs is fuel,” says Mahlberg.  “And while some of their ferries run on heavily travelled routes, there are also routes that serve remote islands where maybe five or ten people live. Going to and from those islands five times a day, often with no passengers, doesn’t make monetary sense, so an electric hydrofoil ferry would cut costs by one third.

An electric foiling ferry could do more than just provide better service at a reduced cost, though. A single diesel ferry uses, on average, 130 liters of fuel per 10 kilometers, which is a lot when you compare it to the 2-3 liters of fuel used by the average public bus for the same distance.

“Developing a high performing hydrofoil leisure boat has been fantastic and the market is excited,” says Mahlberg. “But selling this solution to shipping or ferry operators can have a whole different impact. Candela offers a low-cost, low-emission, high speed solution with better service and availability for customers. We’re setting the standard and our goal is that this technology goes into any boat under 60 meters. So, if you want to go fast and you want to go far in an electric boat you need a hydrofoil boat.”

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