By: Scott Way
The electric boat phenomena is filling boating editorials lately, but it's hard to ignore the surging interest in the industry. With a major investment capital firm and celebrity athletes and musicians now entering the fray, it is impossible to ignore the trajectory of electric inclusion in boating.
A group of celebs that includes actor Will Smith, NBA star Kevin Durant, rapper/actor Sean "Diddy" Combs, and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz have invested $30 million into the startup electric boat company Arc. The round of Series A funding was led by Greg Reichow, the former VP of production at Tesla and current partner at Eclipse Ventures. Arc was cofounded by Mitch Lee and Ryan Cook, both former engineers at SpaceX.
Arc is already testing its first prototype, the Arc One, despite having only been founded 11 months ago. The 24' runabout sports a hefty pricetag of about $300,000 USD, but includes some innovative tech and impressive runtime figures. The key incentive to ownership, according to Arc cofounder Lee, is that despite the price tag the cost of ownership will be lower given the lack of maintenance and need for purchasing fuel. The company is hopeful that sales from Arc One will fund the development of more economical models that will compete price-wise with existing gas-powered options of similar size.
During an interview with Tech Crunch, Lee praised his investors business acumen and how their influence can accelerate growth, saying “All of these people, in addition to just being world class at what they do, have a ton of experience building brands and marketing products, and generally cultivating a community."
The plan for the Arc One is to utilize a 200 kWh 800-volt battery pack capable of powering an electric motor with upwards of 475 horsepower and a top speed of 40 mph. That would place it above other burgeoning electric boats like the already-popular Elex 8000 from Sweden's X-Shore, which carries a top speed of 34 mph using a 225 kWh motor. The Arc One also claims to offer the capability to be used for watersports, which other electric manufacturers have yet to match. Generating a wake produces significant drag and affects battery runtime, which is why nearly all electric boat builders have sought to reduce drag as much as possible. Other fledgling electric boats like the Candela C7 use a hydrofoil design to avoid producing a wake altogether and increase runtime.
In an interview with The Verge, Lee stated that the strategy is to follow the current gas-powered template for sales and marketing, at least until electric power can overtake its gas-powered brethren. According to him, “We are starting up-market, we are working our way down as quickly as we can — we are using their playbook almost verbatim,” he said.
Arc and X-Shore are likely to draw comparisons to one another, and for good reason. Forbes magazine has already dubbed X-Shore the "Tesla of the Sea," while Arc's link to Tesla via executive Greg Reichow will be a major selling feature for investors. Arc cofounder Lee has already heard the comparisons, telling Verge, “From a branding person, why I hesitate is everyone is going to call themselves the ‘Tesla for boats.’ It’s like, everyone aspires to that. What matters is how well are you executing against that playbook.”
The battery banks for the Arc One are extensive and will be integrated directly into the floor of the boat. This minimizes the use of livable space on deck, and helps maintain a low center of gravity. In other words, the battery packs are structural as much as they are the source of propulsion.
Arc's other standout feature it its aluminum hull. Other electric boatbuilders deeper into the R&D process have used conventional fibreglass (like the Candela C7), while others are utilizing eco-friendly materials as a selling feature alongside the green energy concept (the X-Shore is made entirely from recycled materials including cork and flax). For Arc, the aluminum hull is less labour intensive for production and provides a lightweight foundation that will boost its performance potential.
The $30 million investment will allow the start-up to expedite its plans, which includes final approval for the prototype and beginning public sales and marketing. The production version of Arc One will be limited to less than 30 boats and will be made directly at its facility in Los Angeles, California. Production is set to begin within weeks, and deliveries to start in late 2022.
Whether the Arc will gain traction like its emerging competitors remains to be seen, but the backing of major investment firms and celebrity name recognition certainly won't hurt its ability to court the public eye.
In his Verge interview, Lee stated “Boating is amazing. Boat ownership is awful, and we want to solve all the awful parts about boat ownership, and expand the boating market. If we make a boat that, yes, is premium to the market, but it lowers the headache of boat ownership and amplifies the magic of being out on the water... I think that’s a big selling point for us. And if you kind of pair that with all the macro trends of everything going electric, all of that I think sets us up for the right product, the right market fit, the right time.”