THE AUTO WORLD IS MOVING beyond the combustion engine, and boat builders are following suit. But while electric cars like the Tesla S can drive up to 507km on a single charge, it’s still a huge challenge for a boat to run entirely on a battery. (Getting stuck out at sea and in unpredictable weather isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.)
Thankfully, there’s a handful of intrepid boat builders who could soon turn things around. The industry is charging forward to answer the call for zero-emission marine vehicles, and currently making waves is Vita Power. Its electric yacht is a 10-metre beauty which draws on the efficiencies of battery technology from the automotive industry.
Co-founder Luisa Bonello spills on the changing face of power in the marine world, and why electric yachts have been a long time coming, despite the fact that electric boats have been operated on the River Thames since 1882.
Why is there so much resistance to electric propulsion in the motorboat community?
The same reasons as why there was so much resistance to electric propulsion in the automotive community. Diesel propulsion is central to the business models of all the major boatbuilders. A shift to electric technology would mean significant financial investment and an implicit concession that the gas-guzzling tradition is flawed.
These are major hurdles to overcome but, as Tesla has proved, if you can offer a product capable of competing with the biggest names in looks and performance, people will start paying attention.
What allows the Vita to forego the traditional gas engine?
Our core team comprises of a pioneer in electric boat design, and veterans of both the superyacht industry and Mercedes F1. Underpinning the Vita powertrain is a proprietary throttle and touchscreen technology that we have developed, one that integrates 235kWh of battery storage seamlessly with the Vita’s twin electric water jet drives. We believe the levels of speed and responsiveness that the system provides are a first in the area of marine electric propulsion.
That said, we will also be setting up supporting supercharger networks in key areas of use that will allow owners to stop somewhere for lunch and a quick recharge.
What other benefits does an electric boat offer, besides zero emissions and some quiet?
As with electric cars, the acceleration and responsiveness of an electric boat is superior to that of a diesel-powered equivalent. It is also much more cost-efficient in the long term, since fuel costs are eliminated.
Air travel isn’t great for the environment. Comment on the possibility of electric aviation.
It will certainly be possible in the future. The technology exists, and there are several companies and research groups that are already working on prototypes. It is likely to take longer for the technology to catch up with that of the marine and automotive worlds. But there seems to be serious long-term intent in that area.
How important is sustainability to Vita Power?
Whenever possible, we opt for materials and processes that minimise our environmental impact as a company. We use a hybrid car to tow the Vita to events, for example. We are also working closely with the Blue Marine Foundation, one of the world’s leading ocean charities. In an effort to champion ocean conservation, a percentage of every Vita boat sold will go directly to its causes.
Vita Power ships worldwide. Its yachts start at S$543,547.