We had a chat with Mitch Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of Arc Boats, who tells us about creating a 350kW electric boat and how it has a lot in common with the work his CTO and and other team members did on the Space X rockets.
With their goal of transitioning marine transportation from fossil fuel to electric “as quickly as possible“, they have already been out skiing behind and testing demos of their high speed water sport towboat – a remarkable achievement considering they started the company less than 10 months ago.
This is just like we did on the rocket!
Mitch grew up waterskiing, so a water sport boat was a natural for him, but it does come with specific requirements. It needs to be able to go fast enough to get riders up on their skis or boards and also handle a good session of running around the lake towing people.
Fortunately, Mitch is a mechanical engineer by training and a software engineer by trade – and even more fortunately, his university friend Ryan Cook spent 7 years as lead mechanical engineer at SpaceX on the first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
As Mitch says in the Plugboats Podcast “I can’t tell you the number of times we were standing around a whiteboard and somebody on the team said ‘This is just like what we did on the rocket!’. When you think of it, the hull of a boat is pretty similar to the nose of a rocket, and they both need large, strong lightweight structures that can be produced in bulk.”
The Arc One can hit speeds of up to 40 mph and the 200 kWh battery capacity is good for 3-5 hours of regular usage – meaning you pull some riders for awhile, they drop, you pick them up, you go through some no wake zones, etc.
Being electric gives the boat both advantages and challenges. On the plus side, the 350kW (475HP) motor (powerful even for fossil fuel water sport boats) is lighter and smaller than an ICE version. On the not-so-plus side is the weight of the batteries.
The goal was to have the overall weight of the boat come out about the same as existing water sport boats on the market – commonly made of fibreglass and/or other composites like carbon fibre. The team at Arc looked at a variety of materials and finally decided on aluminum. In addition to being light it doesn’t require a mold, making design changes and iterations easier during the development stage of the boat.
200kWh battery for 350kW electric boat
Then there is the 200 kWh battery. (For reference, the energy storage capacity of a Tesla Model-S battery is 85 kWh). The Arc One has two battery packs instead of one. They configure and build the packs themselves, using cells from a well known but undisclosed supplier, and have them situated under the deck of the boat. (Battery cells are made into modules, which are made into battery packs.) This also played into the reasons for choosing aluminum for the hull.
No matter where you put the batteries, though, they are heavy, which turns out to be not all bad. One of the considerations is that the weight of a boat, the way it sits in the water and the way the water is thrown around it is actually somewhat beneficial in creating the wakes for some watersports.
Aside from the technology, the other notable thing about Arc Boats is how quickly they have put all this together. The company was only formed in February and received backing and funding from some notable Silicon Valley finance veterans like Andreesen Horowitz and Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital. This has given Arc the resources to gather data from demos and move on to improved designs quickly.
Arc is not the only electric boat company catching the eye of investors who specialize in tech and software. The recently launched Edorado has the backing of Dutch technology and media entrepreneur Steven Schuurman, the last round of X Shore investment was headed up by Lukasz Gadowski and his technology holding company Team Europe, and the involvement of TED Curator Chris Anderson has been a big boost for Candela and the introduction of its Candela 8.
Other models on the way after Arc One
Arc’s goal is to start to deliver the first limited edition of the Arc One boats to customers by the beginning of 2022, and have them all in the water within a year. With a price of US$300,000 Mitch readily admits that it is not for everyone, but for a very specific kind of person – “the kind of people who wish they’d got that first Tesla Roadster.”
Anyone with a $1,000 ready for the down payment can sign up on the company’s site to join the wait list for the Arc One. The down payment is fully refundable, and if the limited edition runs out before your name comes up, the money can be put towards the next model, which will be a more moderately priced water sports boat that incorporates all of the company’s data and learning from the operation of the first models.
The long term plan for Arc Boats is to be a major competitor in the water sports market, then continue to grow beyond to general sports boats – all of them all-electric, of course. On their way to this goal, they will have at least one model in development at any given moment.
Mitch is quite emphatic when he says “We are not looking to sell a few boats and they’re kind of concept boats and it’s kind of cool. Our goal as a company is to be a major player, to mass produce electric boats and get them out to the market with a performance package that is compelling, and at a price point that is compelling. This electric industry is starting to take off, and the faster it comes, the better for everyone.”
Listen to the Plugboats Podcast with Mitch Lee below
Arc One Specifications
|Length Overall||24 ft /|
|Beam||8.5 ft /|
|Power||35kW / 475 HP|
|Top Speed||40 mph /|
|Battery Capacity||200 kWh|
|Usage Time||3-5 hours|