The Future of Boating is Electric

Electric vehicle technology on the water

When we talk about Electric Vehicles (EVs) it’s often about electric cars, but as innovation around EVs continues to grow and the ecosystem that supports them evolves, electric boats now moving on to center stage.  The X-Shore Eelex 8000 electric boat is the brainchild of Swedish serial entrepreneur Konrad Bergström – and it’s being hailed as the Tesla of the sea.

Scandinavia has a long history of boating culture, and when you combine that with very technologically advanced societies that puts sustainability very high on the agenda, it’s no surprise that some of the most interesting and exciting innovations in electric boating are coming out of Northern Europe. And with a global market that is expected to grow 11.9% through 2027, its clear the electric boat revolution has arrived. But even 25 years ago, when few were thinking electric, Swedish serial entrepreneur Konrad Bergström had already registered the X-Shore brand, with the idea of bringing boats as close to nature and the environment as possible.

“There are a lot of companies doing cool renderings and people often think our boat is a render as well,” explains Christofer Rosengren, Head of Programs & Products, X-Shore. “Then we meet them at boat shows and they’re like ‘Wow, this is real! You actually have a boat!’ And we don’t have just one boat, we have two – and we have mass production, which is where people start to have confidence in the future of electric boats.

It may have taken twenty years from idea to inception – but then it was just two years for the first prototype to be launched.  That first prototype, launched in 2018, was the Smögen Edition, and in January of this year X-Shore launched the Eelex 8000 in Europe and to the US market in February.

While a lot of companies working with electric vehicles see themselves as primarily tech companies, X-Shore also sees itself as a green company just as much if not more than a tech company.

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Basically, we’re a purpose-driven company and tech is the way to get us where we want. We want to be able to enjoy boating without leaving any footprint – and technology is the way to go there.

Christofer Rosengren Head of Programs & Products X-Shore

One of the reasons it has taken so long for EV technology to be applicable marine side is that electric boats are, in many cases, piggybacking on tech that has already been developed for cars. The difference is that car companies have huge budgets, while it would be nearly impossible for a boat manufacturer to to spend the same kind of money the car industry has spent on developing this technology.

“Now we have a mature technology from EVs, but different applications” says Christofer Rosengren. “On an electric car, for example, as long as you just drive 100km on the road you use maybe 20 horsepower out of the 250 that you actually have. Cruising speed on a boat is typically defined as 80% load when it comes to combustion engines – at the point where you have 80% power-take out on an electric boat you will be really stressing the battery and the technology to get that power out. So, yes, we’re using technologies developed for EVs, but need to squeeze them, adapt them to actually make them work for boating.”

How the X-Shore solution works

The basic building blocks of the X-Shore Eelex 8000 are a battery, an electric motor, and a shaft and propeller – very much in line with conventional propulsion to get all that energy out. What X-shore has done is taken out a lot of the power, including the continuous power, because it creates a lot of heat, which is easily addressed by the cooling system, given that this is a boat and there is plenty of water available.

“Once these basic pieces are in place, you need control,” says Christofer Rosengren. “For X-Shore, our ambition is to make our boat as close to a conventional boat as possible, so that the switch to an EV boat is as smooth, easy, and painless as it can be for boaters used to conventional engines.

“The only difference between a combustion boat and ours is that our boat is quiet. At speeds below six or seven knots, it’s totally silent, like a kayak. This can take some getting used to, because just like with an electric car, you don’t have the sound of the engine kicking to life. And if you’ve owned a combustion boat, you know that you never drop the ropes until you start the engine. So, this is all you have to learn and adapt to – otherwise the Eelex is as simple as any other boat.”

Range & infrastructure

Just like with electric cars, some customers have concerns about range and may have charging anxiety, which isn’t entirely unexpected. But here’s the rub: many customers believe they go further and run more than they actually do.

“If you look at the typical day tender, you go maybe 15-20 minutes out to an island or to anchor so that you can swim for a few hours or whatever,” explains Christofer Rosengren. “What we have defined as a good cruising range fits most people for a tender boat, which is to be able to run at cruising speed for about an hour. This means about 20-22 knots for about 20-25 nautical miles with a top speed of around 30 knots.

“In fact, if you look at the Scandinavian market and how many hours a typical boat owner runs each season, it’s about 20-25 hours per season. In that sense, one hour is a lot – on the other hand, if you go low speeds, you can go 100 nautical miles. And our customers have told us that they used to like going very fast, but now they really just enjoy the silence of cruising at 5 or 6 knots – and this is the first time that sailors have been waving at speedboats!”

When it comes to keeping the boat charged, the infrastructure is growing, there is plenty of innovation, and the ecosystem is evolving. The EElex 8000 has 120kw of battery and typically a super-charger will give you power of 150kw, which is about 1-1 ½ hours. If you’re talking about the typical three face electrical outlet in Scandinavia, which most marinas already have, you can fully charge in about eight hours – so basically an overnight charge for what is essentially a day boat.

“We can absolutely contribute towards helping evolve the charging infrastructure,” says Christofer Rosengren. “Particularly in understanding how electric boats are used, what the typical range is, and what is the typical range you would like to have between charging stations – all this information will help in building up that infrastructure.

“We’ve been in discussion with the Gothenburg region on Sweden’s west coast, and they have already started to map out charging points in the southern archipelago. We’ve told them this is great work but to not limit it to super chargers, because those have an initial high cost. You really just need a regular outlet – and you need a lot of them, so there isn’t charging anxiety. Initially investing in a lot of ‘regular’ charging stations means they can learn and adapt as they go along. Our boat is completely connected and as the fleet grows there will be a lot of data to help build out the infrastructure in the best way possible.”

IoT & connectivity

X-Shore boats are fully connected, and this is beneficial to both the company and its customers. If there is an issue with the boat the X-Shore team can do the first analysis remotely, and because they can also upload all the software remotely, they are often able to fix issues without ever visiting the boat onsite.

“We also have the possibility to geo-fence, which is a great feature for boat sharing schemes and boat rental companies, because they typically want their customers to remain within certain areas,” says Christofer Rosengren. “Being able to geo-fence and also derate the boat, so it only goes maybe five knots, after which we can give warnings – it’s a great way to have control of the boat for these kinds of companies.”

It can also be challenging for boat sharing companies to figure out how to charge for service and maintenance and the boat’s configuration is already ready for those kinds of services. For the end customer, X-shore can upload all data, and will be able to offer digital products that can be downloaded in real time. If the boat is stolen, we have a GPS tracker, which means our boats are not very hot items for thieves, and also could positively impact insurance rates.”

The data collected by X-Shore is proprietary information for the customer and is fully compliant with all regulations, such as GDPR. It is transferred by a secure IoT gateway with 4G SIM cars.

Beyond the tech – let’s talk about luxury & sustainability

While X-Shore has put a lot of effort into developing the tech side of Eelex, they haven’t forgotten about the amenities. Chief Designer William Blomstrand designed super yachts for more than a decade, and he leads the team’s efforts to not just make sure customers are getting a cool and comfortable ride, but that the boat’s materials are in line with the company’s green profile.

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We do a lot of work with design and materials. We have cork, for example, which is not only sustainable, but also gives a nice tactile feeling and a good grip when it rains or when the waves splash over the sides. We’re very careful when looking into the details and asking: how does it feel? How does it look?

Christofer Rosengren Head of Programs & Products X-Shore

“What’s most interesting is that when people visit us at boat shows they do a test ride and realize that it’s like a big sofa platform. You can bring ten or fifteen people along for food and drinks. The boat is built for sociability, with a huge center consol.”

When it comes to sustainability, it’s no longer a buzz word – people want real value. They don’t want to just hear the talk, they want to see companies walking the walk.

“There is real business value in being sustainable,” says Christer Rosengren. “And we don’t use an electric motor as our sustainable argument – we take it much further and explore new materials such as bio fibers, flax fibers, ert. We go into the details: what kinds of materials do we want to use? What kind of process do we need to manufacture parts? The factory we’re currently setting up south of Stockholm will have focus around being more sustainable throughout the chain. We’re looking into new technologies to be as green as possible end-to-end.”

And when it comes to the future?  It’s looking very bright indeed.

“We are looking at amazing future. The demand is growing fast and we’re really excited to be opening up the new factory. We of course have a product portfolio and are looking into new models, so there’s a lot of stuff happening in the next few years. A lot of companies are moving into the electric boat sphere, but we are confident we will accelerate and be the company that scales electric boats.

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