Electric Boat Company Founded by Tesla Exec Goes Big on Battery Tech
The emergence of the electric boating market continues to take shape.
Early figureheads include the likes of Sweden's X-Shore and Candela, while longstanding gas-powered brands like Four Winns, DeAntonio, and even Riva are starting to push their way into the marketplace.
The venture capitalist route is also getting into the action, with trendy options like the Arc One and Pure Watercraft already reaching mainstream availability.
Now a brand is emerging with a unique balance between Silicon Valley startup ambition paired with reputable marine resources- Blue Innovations Group.
The company is founded by former Tesla executive Chuan "John" Vo, who has an impressive background in the semiconductor, aerospace, solar energy, and electric vehicle industries, as well as extensive experience with R&D, product development, manufacturing.
When it comes to electric boating, you'd be hard pressed to find a better collection of skills.
Now Vo has turned his attention towards developing a unique drivetrain for Blue Innovation Group's R30 model - their first large scale design that's prepared to enter the market.
The R30 boasts a 'dual motor powertrain' developed by Vo and BIG that generates a massive 800 horsepower. The R30 carries an even 30' LOA with a 12 person capacity, so the horsepower rating alone will undoubtedly draw interest.
The nominal runtime according to BIG is 12 hours, which marks a notable increase over existing options on the market. Most small to midsize electric boats currently available generally recommend a runtime of 4-6 hours depending on speed, weight, and conditions.
Momentum for the new R30 first picked up at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January.
It was there that Vo unveiled the R30 and its potential to a captivated audience of tech fanatics.
“Being at CES brought BIG out of stealth mode and has enabled us to share with the world BIG’s mission and vision,” said Vo. “The R30 will provide the best value to customers while making no compromise on luxury, performance, styling, cost and environmental impact.”
“People are excited about our product as much as our mission; they feel that it is overdue. We have not only been able to get current boaters to be excited about our mission but also non-boaters who are super critical for our mission.”
The R30 generates its power via a dual-engine 221 kWh battery pack. The 800 hp / 600 kW of power is stored within structurally integrated batteries moulded into the chassis of the hull.
BIG's unique proposition is to use Lithium ion Phosphate (LFP) battery technology as opposed to the more common NMC (Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt), Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA), or typical Lithium ion (Li) batteries. In essence, LFP battery technology is a type of Lithium ion battery that uses iron phosphate as the cathode material. In turn, the cathodes produce a relatively high energy density relative to the battery's weigh but also creates a longer running life and better performance at higher temperatures.
The idea, according to BIG, is to use LFP batteries, which have a slightly lower energy density than Lithium ion, to produce a boat with a smoother power curve and a longer runtime.
In non-boating applications, Lithium ion (Li) batteries are generally found in smaller power hungry devices and vehicles. With respect to a boat as large as the R30, the idea behind using LFP batteries may be to produce a longer, smoother runtime at the expense of requiring slightly more battery space. That extra space requirement, however, can be mitigated by integrating the batteries into the hull's design, a feature that's being rapidly explored across the electric boating industry. Most companies are seemingly in the midst of balancing hull design, weight distribution, and battery capability in order to find the optimum mix of performance and design.
The other standout feature of the R30 are the integrated solar panels atop the center console. The expandable 2.7 kW panels can be used to both charge the boat and operate its onboard electronics. While at rest, the panels can be expanded to generate more incoming voltage.
The R30 is also projecting an industry leading top speed of 39 knots (45 mph).
Eager boaters interested in getting first crack at the R30 can already make their claim- the company offers two reservation types when production goes public in Q2 of 2024.
A 'BIG Reservation' of $5000 USD will allocate the first 100 R30 models to those with the larger deposits. After the first 100 boats are completed, 50% of production capacity will go to those who put down $1000 USD as 'Blue Reservations.'
The total estimated purchase price for the R30 is $300,000 USD.