By: Scott Way
A growing demand for progressive tech in the marine space is being met by companies like Quebec's BCI Marine
Quebec's BCI Marine recently announced they will be the official distributor for burgeoning electric boat manufacturer X Shore. The Swedish boat builder has been a media darling in recent months as mainstream media latched onto their Eelex 8000 model and its drove of sustainable technology. At the same time, X Shore has also been undergoing rapid rounds of investor funding and an expansion of their manufacturing facilities.
BCI Marine, for its part, is one of Canada's leading distributors of boutique brands like Parker, Brig, and Capelli. With the addition of X Shore, the company will now step to the forefront of the electric power movement in the Canadian market. On a broader North American scale, the trend continues to gain momentum with major players like Mercury and Sea-Doo announcing major transitions towards an electric future.
We spoke with Patrick Hardy, President of BCI Marine, to get his predictions on the future of X Shore in the North American market and the broader industry trend towards sustainable tech. When asked about his decision to bring in X Shore, Hardy told us: "I've been following everything that's electric boats since about 2016. The ferries in major cities, in Nordic countries, Netherlands, Sweden, and so on. And as well as electric cargo ships and electric sailboats with sails that have solar panels sewn into them. I've been really following up on the lines. And then I came upon X Shore through this market watch. Everything seemed that they're doing everything right, the right way."
X Shore obviously sees the market potential too, with CEO Jenny Keisu stating in a company press release: "Keeping our overall goal of helping the boating industry evolve and adapting to support a cleaner environment, we're excited to be working with BCI Marine as our first North American distribution agreement. Considering Canada accounts for 20% of our planet's natural water reservoirs, we see a huge opportunity for growth in the Canadian market, particularly as sustainability is a top priority for the country and its citizens."
While some industry insiders have expressed doubts about the viability of electric boats, Hardy has done his due diligence with a long term forecast: "I come from a technology background before being in the boating industry. Boating is a passion of mine first, and then it became my career when I hit 50. I think, for me, electric boating is more of a software play than a hardware play. And X Shore has done it in that fashion. It makes sense for BCI as well, to go in that direction, to look forward. I think the traditional gas and diesel engines are still going to be with us for a couple years, 5-10 years at least, until we wind down our existing base and then I think the big manufacturers like Volvo that have invested in getting hybrid drivetrains into the market, I think we will see that sooner rather than later."
Lingering concerns about inventory availability could also affect the short-term forecast as manufacturers navigate supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. With supply shortfalls predicted into 2022, Hardy sees the gradual rollout as giving both the industry and its consumers time to come around. On top of that, the surge in demand is driving industry growth.
"I'm forecasting by summer 2023 we're going to have close to 75 units in the water here in Canada. That's what we're forecasting. The digital data mining that's been done by X Shore, from what I've compiled as well, that's where we're going to be. What I can predict is that we're going to steal the show in Toronto, we're going to steal the show in Montreal, and we'd like to make it to Vancouver to steal the show there as well. That's for sure. I know that we're having an impact on the Montreal boat show because they're already pronouncing terms like "The Electrical Circuit" within the boat show to show off everything that's electrical. I know Toronto has a good appetite for this and obviously when you're a commercial show you're going to want to present some content or some news that's a new attraction, especially to get people back into events after this pandemic that we've lived through. What I'm expecting is that the competition will align itself and follow the same path, because that will just be good for the market."
There is also the influence of new boaters entering the marketplace. Since early 2020, recreational boating has seen a massive increase in sales coupled with a huge increase in domestic recreation. There is also growing evidence that a large portion of new boaters are young, urban, and without longstanding ties to the marine industry or lifestyle. All this bodes well for BCI and X Shore as they look to satisfy a new market segment: "Tesla did a good job when they introduced electric, and actually Toyota had done it before them with the Prius which is really popular in California, and then somebody came along and starting to reinvent it and that was just good for the industry. We're seeing Nissan invest 50 billion dollars in transforming their production lines to electrical. I'm expecting for us to see some great things. And here's one really, really important observation in my sense: We are the best leisure category to move fast and forward with this because we have electricity at every single one of our docks. ATV's, motorcycles, they're going to go through the same challenges as the car industry has gone through in the past. Most of the bigger boats they'll go out for an hour or two, they'll drop anchor, and they'll come back to port and plug back in. I've already heard discussions about rapid chargers in our marinas, and I think those will be destined for PWC's and the smaller, quicker, open deck boats that will go full throttle for a couple hours because they're easier to handle."
The demand for boats in general, and electric boats in particular, has no immediate end in sight. Supply and demand fluctuations will continue with irregularity into 2022, but the future looks promising. When asked about the response to the X Shore announcement, Hardy added: "There's been a lot of outreach. I've had a lot of calls from industry people who want to get an early jump in that market space. My customer base has interest for the boat. The first Canadian X Shore boat will be at the port of Montreal in mid-August and we're going to have an official launch at the Montreal Yacht Club. And then we have an on-water boat show in Quebec City in late August, and another in early September in Montreal, and that's where I'm hoping to get the most pick-up as well. We know that the first boat will sell quickly. We already have production slots purchased from the builder. And then it will just be a question of which dealers are going to come on. We already have NDA's signed and some short list dealers signed. I think this is going to change the buyer persona. I've gotten a lot of calls from younger clientele who are young Tesla owners or Bitcoin millionaires (laughs), and I think we're going go see a whole new persona in the buyer base arise from what we're used to seeing."