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Sweden Tesla of the Sea Challenges Fossil-Fueled Speedboats

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Swedens Candela Speed Boat is challenging the conventional combustion-engine leisure-craft industry with a new battery-powered speedboat, betting that flight can solve the main hurdle to marine electrification.

The C-8 unveiled Thursday succeeds the C-7, a hydrofoil craft that's been delivered to around 30 customers worldwide. The new 8.5-meter (28-foot) boat with berths for two adults and two children is designed for volume production, and Candela is raising funds for a factory to make about 400 units a year initially. Gustav Hasselskog, the startup's founder and chief executive officer, says it could sell more than a 1,000 a year and drive consolidation in the fragmented leisure-boat market.

"There are way too many boat companies and people aren't making any money," Hasselskog said in an interview at the company's combined headquarters and factory in Stockholm. "As technology content increases it may raise entry barriers, which could drive consolidation and benefit continued research and development. No one can afford that today."

The electric leisure-boat market is still in its infancy and struggling to overcome some basic technological challenges inherent to marine transport, the foremost being water friction. Candela has revived an old technology to compete with combustion-engine boats. Its hydrofoil crafts practically fly above the surface, enabling more efficient energy use and a smaller battery.

"To build a planing boat of the same size as the C-8 with electric propulsion, you would typically need a battery three times as big to get half the range," Hasselskog said. "That's impractical and will not be an alternative to combustion engines anytime soon. It's just too expensive."

Hydrofoil technology, invented in the 19th century and based on the same principles as the wings of an airplane, has garnered increasing attention in recent years as boat builders seek the efficiency gains needed to overcome the drag that comes with propulsion through water. It has also spawned a boom in sales of electric-powered surfboards, such as the one used by Mark Zuckerberg in a viral video the Facebook CEO posted to mark the Fourth of July.

"What Candela is doing has been really good," said Luke Gear, a senior technology analyst at IDTechEx. "The fact that they've designed the prop and the components into the vessel itself is what is going to make this efficient."

While flight does "completely change the energy demand of a boat," it's unlikely to be a "silver bullet" for the electric boating industry, Gear said. "Hydrofoiling has lots of complexities and problems of its own."

The Candela C-8, priced at 290,000 euros ($341,000) excluding sales tax, seats eight passengers and features a sun bed, front cabin and marine toilet. With a purpose-built underwater electric motor, the C-pod, Candela promises a silent ride when the boat reaches 16 knots and lifts from the surface. Then it's smooth sailing up to an electronically limited 30 knots.

Taking a page out of Elon Musk's playbook, the C-8 offers Tesla Inc.-like over-the-air updates, a 15.4-inch high-resolution touch screen for navigation and an app where you can plan trips and access all features of the boat, from switching on lights and the cooler to checking its charging status. Candela has developed all the software in-house.

The C-8's range will be greater than the C-7, which can travel for 50 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 22 knots.

Tesla's Model S "outsold all combustion-engine luxury sedans, and we expect the C-8 to have a similar impact on the boating industry," Hasselskog said.

Leisure boats are just the beginning for Candela. It's preparing to test a 30-seat hydrofoil ferry on Stockholm's waterways in 2023, and is in talks with some 45 cities about delivering passenger vessels.

"We believe the passenger-ship business will grow faster, although we have come further on leisure boats" Hasselskog said. "In Europe the environmental issue is driving the development, with Stockholm, for example, saying its marine public transport will be fossil-free by 2030."

Published : August 27, 2021