An electric boats tour of Boot Düsseldorf 2023
When the organizers of Boot Düsseldorf say it is the world’s largest boat show, my aching legs can attest to that!
‘Boot’ as it is known for short, is spread out over the 16 halls of the Messe Düsseldorf (messe meaning ‘industrial fair’) with about 250,000 square metres – 2.5 million square feet – of exhibits and booths that include everything from local vendors selling PFDs and sunglasses to fully outfitted 50+ foot yachts. I spent three days there exploring as many electric boats and motors exhibitors…and it was quite a workout!
More than 75 electric boat and motor exhibitors
As I noted in the ‘Guide to Electric Boat Exhibitors at Boot 2022’, more than 75 of those booths and stalls were dedicated to electric boats, motors and accessories. The actual number is probably closer to 90 because some companies shared booths with distributors or other companies and hadn’t been listed separately in the show’s online directory.
I was specifically searching out electric exhibits, so my outlook is definitely biased, but I think it is safe to say that there were so many it would have been difficult for even the most casual visitor NOT to notice the presence of a new kind of propulsion in the world of boating.
Since Boot has been an online / virtual show for the past two years, it is tough to gauge the growth of electric exhibitors over that time, but it was impressive.
I had some great conversations with people in the industry, and without detailing every booth and person I visited, here is an overview along with some thoughts and impressions about where the industry is at…and where it is headed.
Hall 1: An impressive start!
The very first thing a visitor saw on entering Hall 1 of Düsseldorf was an electric boat – the brand new all-electric Delphia 10 Lounge, which was officially introduced on the first Sunday of the show by Delphia Brand Director Martin Schemkes, Product Manager Luka Modrijan, Torqeedo Director Global Business Development Isabel Jeschek( Torqeedo does the propulsjon), and Alex Bamberg, CEO of Aqua superPower.
Aqua is installing a global network of high speed marine charging stations, and for Düsseldorf they installed a ‘virtual network’ of demo, non-working chargers There was one prominently displayed at the bow of the Delphia 10 Lounge and installations were also at the stalls of many of the companies Aqua partners with – Axopar, Delphia, Evoy, RS Electric Boats, Vita Yachts and X Shore.
The bright Aqua blue colour stood out and I do think the average person would have noticed ‘something going on’ as they toured the whole show.
The look of the chargers promotes curiosity about what they are, and when people saw them in different locations and learned more about them, the notion that charging infrastructure is being added in conjunction with electric boats helps add to the perception that the e-boat industry is becoming more and more popular and accessible every day.
Directly across the aisle from Delphia was another electric/hybrid boat manufacturer – and remember, we haven’t even got 50 metres into the show yet! Greenline Yachts had four of their models on display – all available either as all-electric or hybrid.
In some ways the two companies being at the entrance acted as bookends to the electric boat industry. Greenline is one of sustainable boating’s pioneers, having launched their first hybrid in 2008, while Delphia started manufacturing their first electric models in May of last year and have pledged to be all-electric by 2025.
A bit further along a set up from German-Turkish manufacturer Caracat was attracting a lot of attention. The Caracat is a word combining ‘caravan’ and ‘catamaran’ and it has to be one of the few companies that exhibit at the Düsseldorf Boat Show in January AND at the Düsseldorf RV Show in August. The Caracat can be towed behind your car on wheels as a caravan (‘trailer’ in North America), or launched with pontoons and a Torqeedo outboard as a houseboat.
For some reason, there isn’t a Hall 2 in the Messe complex, so coming out of Hall 1 visitors have the option of going to Hall 3 or to Hall 4. I went to Hall 4 and it was VERY impressive.
Hall 4: electric boats central
Walking in to Hall 4 gave the impression that it was completely electric boat manufacturers. Gathered by the entrance were: Ruban Bleu of France, Vita and RS Electric Boats from the UK, Garda Solar from Italy. Moving towards the central portion of the hall were Magonis, Candela, X Shore and Axopar, who were showing their Axopar 25 with an Evoy Storm outboard sporting its brand new all-black cowling design.
Two impressive new entries in the electric boat market were the Lasai from Spain and Kaebon from Germany. I was able to conduct interviews with the main people at both of them and will be writing about them soon in Plugboats.
The thing that attracted the most attention in Hall 4 was the Candela display. A large video showed the Candela 8 hydrofoiling across various waters and it was definitely a traffic stopper. At any given time there were at least a half dozen people watching the screen and on the opening Sunday I counted 40 people at one point, all intrigued by what they were seeing and all talking about electric boats.
Candela and X Shore Award Winners
On the Monday of the show Candela 8 was named 2023 European Powerboat of the Year in the Electric category (to add to its honours as 2022 Gussies Winner). Congratulations to the Candela team and also to other nominees Delphia 11, Magonis e-Wave 550, Silent 60 (also A Gussies Winner) and the Steeler 61S Electric.
Another popular stall was X Shore, where both the Eelex 800 and new X Shore 1 were on display. It was four years ago at Boot, in 2019, that X Shore first introduced the world to their electric boat vision. So it shows how far the industry has come in such a short time that the European Powerboat Awards now have a category dedicated to electric boats.
The Motor Boat and Yachting magazine ‘Motor Boat Awards’ were also presented during Boot and the X Shore Eelex 800 was a close runner-up in the Sportsboat category – against 4 fossil fuel boats. Maybe a bit disappointing, but for the Eelex 800, two out of three ain’t bad: it grabbed Gold at the German Design Council Awards recently and made the top 10 on Dezeen magazine’s Global Sustainable Transport Design list. Congrats!
There were other electric boat companies in Hall 4, but their booths were spread throughout the rest of the area, rather than being concentrated in pockets. Those companies included Austria’s Marian Boats with their sophisticated M800 Spyder design and Italy’s Capoforte, who are making their first foray into electric boats with the SQ240i model powered by Molabo’s 48 volt propulsion system.
Ingenity, Marian, Edorado, Capoforte and more
The crew of the Dutch electric hydrofoiling boat Edorado were in Hall 4 and also had co-founder Godert van Hardenbroek speaking at the Blue Innovation Dock (more below) in a meeting of marine startup companies.
Ingenity was present and accounted for with both the Nautique GS22E electric wakeboarding boat and Ingenity 23E dayboat on display. Funnily enough, when I was going by the exhibit I could hear some very detailed questions being asked by a group chatting with Ingenity President Sean Marrero. As I got closer I realized why those questions were so well informed – the visitors were all wearing Candela shirts and had taken some time off from their own display to take in the rest of the show!
Hall 5: More electric boats!
Moving on to Hall 5 the electric boat presence just keep coming. Frauscher had the electric version of the 740 Mirage Air on display and Rand exhibited their entire range, including the Source 222 unveiled at Cannes last September and brand new Breeze 20, making its world premiere at Düsseldorf.
A few metres from the Rand exhibit was the stall for Switzerland’s famous Boesch handcrafted wooden boats, which can be ordered with electric or FF propulsion. I was speaking with Markus Boesch, the great-grandson of company founder Jakob Boesch and he told me it was Jakob who built the company’s first electric boat back in 1898!
Markus graciously arranged for me to interview his father, Klaus, later in the show. Boesch senior regaled me with some great stories about the company history which I will be writing up and sharing on Plugboats soon.
Concentrated groupings create awareness
After visiting these first few halls, I had no doubt whatsoever that people would notice the presence of electric boats at Boot 2023. When the boats are gathered together, as they were at the entrance to Hall 4, it is particularly impressive.
There may be reasons for exhibitors to want to be in different locations throughout the Messe complex, but I would say that in terms of making an impression for the electric boat industry as a whole, the more the companies are grouped together, the more people will understand that electric boating is here, now, in a big way.
Looking at Boot 2023 and recognizing the growth of electric boats since Boot 2019, it is easy to visualize a day when an entire hall at Düsseldorf might be dedicated to electric boats. My guess, based on nothing more than intuition, would be by 2026.
Now on to motors.
Hall 10: dozens of electric motor manufacturers
The other hall that had a huge electric presence was Hall 10, with that presence somewhat anchored by the exhibits of ePropulsion, Torqeedo and the stage of the Blue Innovation Dock (BID).
The BID was presented by the European Boating Industry organization and sponsored by Groupe Beneteau, Brunswick, ePropulsion, Greenline, SILENT-YACHTS, Sunreef and Torqeedo, among others.
There were presentations and seminars going on throughout the week, with topics covering sustainability in all areas of the marine industry including propulsion, fuels and production materials and processes. All presentations were recorded, and there is a list at the end of this article with links to the videos of some of the most relevant presentations.
Torqeedo launched their new campaign: “THE FUTURE IS ORANGE’ at Boot, with Fabian Bez, the recently appointed CEO of Torqeedo, saying “We hope you’ll join us in exploring how Torqeedo has evolved from a pioneer to an industry leader when you visit the all-new Torqeedo booth.
Torqeedo: ‘The future is orange’
“Electric mobility on the water is evolving quickly” he continued, “and Torqeedo is debuting interactive activities asking boaters to share their priorities, requirements and ideas for an emission-free boating future. It’s never been more important to keep our customers at the centre of our development as we transform how we spend time on the water.”
Over at the ePropulsion booth I got my first chance to take a look at the new line of electric inboards that were introduced at METSTRADE last November. Very impressive.
I also had an interesting chat with Ricky Cole from ePropulsion and Steve Bruce, the company’s Global OEM Sales Director. They have been working on some really interesting initiatives in Zanzibar and elsewhere. More details on those will also be forthcoming in Plugboats.
ePropulsion in Zanzibar and other projects
Overall, the electric presence in Hall 10 wasn’t as concentrated as in Hall 4 – the motor companies were scattered throughout the hall – but that actually helped create the impression that every time you turned around in Hall 10 there was an electric motor option for you and that electric is becoming a mainstream way to power your boat.
Here’s a quick list of exhibitors: Aquamot, Piktronik, SeaDrive, Vetus, Fisher-Panda, Garmin, Mitek, e’dyn, E-Tech, Huracan, Krautler, Transfluid Bellmarine and Waterworld.
I then made a quick stop in Hall 1 to see the booth of Highfield RIBS, who are working with a number of electric motor companies. At the Fort Lauderdale show their boats were teamed up with Pure Watercraft units and here in Düsseldorf they were with ePropulsion and the new electric jet system from New Zealand – ZeroJet. I got the details on all of that from Neil Mans of ZeroJet and that is another upcoming Plugboats story.
Back to Hall 10 for a minute, some notes on some of the manufacturers there:
- Oceanvolt is fresh off their recent crowdfunding success and was eager to show off their new lighter and powerful line.
- Propel is in the midst of developing a range of outboard sizes
- Molabo is working on an outboard version of the 48V 50kW motor
Other companies that were gathering big crowds because of the uniqueness of their offerings were Temo, Remigo and FinX. The Temo detachable outboard was something that people loved because they could actually pick it up to see (and feel) how it works. The thin design and ingenious transom bracket of the Remigo got a lot of compliments, and the FinX motor, which is based on the mechanisms that enable a fish to swim, is absolutely stunning for me in how much propulsion it can generate.
‘Legacy’ brands getting into electric
If you are thinking (like I was, wandering round the show) that all of this is pretty exciting news for electric boats, there is also the feeling that it is really just the beginning.
Wandering back to Hall 3, there were many of the world’s biggest marine corporations, what I will call ‘legacy’ companies, getting into electric in their own ways.
Mercury hosted the European launch for the Avator electric outboards, which might have been one of the most attended launches of the show. Hall 3 is also where I spotted the Honda electric outboard prototype and where Four Winns had their booth promoting their new electric option, the H2e.
The H2e sports the Vision Marine Technologies outboard 180 E-Motion and I was able to get a few minutes of VMT President Alex Mongeon’s time to talk about what the company is up to for next year and about their world record speed set at last year’s Lake of The Ozarks.
Suffice to say that he and his development crew are not satisfied with 104 mph and are intent on increasing the speed record this year. He also some other news that Plugboats will be sharing in the next few weeks.
Hall 7a: Soel Yachts, SILENT-YACHTS, Sunreef, Alva
Then I headed over to Hall 7a. I was intrigued to find out what it looked like, because it is billed as the SuperYacht show. Having been wowed by the size of Boot Düsseldorf so far, I was half expecting that the building would be stacked to the rafters with full size superyachts, but the boats were actually presented in model form.
What was impressive is how the big water solar electric yachts are now gaining big traction for buyers of large, luxury vessels. Many of these buyers are obviously concerned about the impact of their boats on our planet, and also presumably are looking for a bit of the peace and quiet electric propulsion provides when they ‘get away from it all’.
Michael Kohler of SILENT-YACHTS had just come from his presentation at the Blue Innovation Dock, and Artur Połoczański of Sunreef was getting prepared for his talk the next day on innovations in sustainable boating. Sunreef was also showing their Sunreef Hydrogen 80 and the Sunreef 43M Eco, the shipyard’s biggest sailing catamaran to date.
On a personal note, it was great for me to meet the people in Hall 7a – and the other halls – in person. I had an in-depth chat with David Czap of Soel Yachts in which he talked about his journey from being part of the first solar boat races in the Netherlands at TU Delft in 2004 to the building of the world’s first solar electric speed boat, the Czeers Mk1, to the implementation of Soel Yachts zero emission watertaxi/shuttles in the South Pacific.
He also took me through the features of the Soel Senses 62 catamaran and announced that sales for the luxury catamaran will be handled by Ocean Independence.
Electric sailboats in Hall 16
Last, but certainly not least, is the sailboats.
Sailors are arguably the people who would be most attracted to electric boating, because one of the reason they have sail instead of power boats is to be able to enjoy the sounds of nature and the scent of the ocean breezes.
This is another area where more and more manufacturers are moving to electric. In 2021 Arcona was the first company to make electric propulsion standards (instead of an option) on a sailboat: their Arcona 415 with propulsion by Oceanvolt. It was featured at their stall at Boot, and was now accompanied by electric offers from other builders.
Beneteau was showing their First 44e model with electric propulsion, which won the Boat Builder Award for Environmental Improvement in Manufacturing Process at METSTRADE in November.
Contest Yachts held the joint world premieres of two brand-new yachts, the Contest 49CS and Contest 50CS, their first all-electric models. Also making its debut was the SE24 Lite by Saffier Yachts, a 24-footer (8m) with integrated solar photovoltaics for charging its Torqeedo Cruise 3.0 pod drive system.
See the presentations from the Blue Innovation Dock
Finally, here is a list of some of the presentations made at the Blue Innovations Dock mentioned earlier, all of which are available for viewing online.
Together with all of the companies showing off their electric and hybrid offerings at Boot, it is a good indicator of how electric propulsion is beginning to have a significant impact on the boating industry – and of how so many companies are committed to making that impact even larger in the coming years.
Here is a link to »» view the videos of the presentations below and all videos form the Blue Innovation Dock.
CEO Panel on the boating industry – Focus on nautical tourism
SILENT-YACHTS, Founder & CEO
Alexandre Mongeon, Vision Marine Technologies, CEO
Philip Goethe, Torqeedo
John Lasschuit, Mercury Marine
Will Sangster, Mercury Marine
Steve Bruce, ePropulsion
Alex Bamberg, Aqua superPower
Alex Bamberg, Aqua superPower
Martin Schemkes, Beneteau Group
Innovation for sustainability – the
Green Yachting Revolution
Artur Połoczański, Sunreef
Conclusion: ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!’
In 1927 jazz singer Al Jolson famously said ‘you ain’t heard nothin’ yet’ to usher in the era of ‘talkies’ taking over from silent movies. Walking around Boot Düsseldorf almost a century later and talking to electric boat builders and motor manufacturers, you could feel that same kind of excitement and enthusiasm – that the world of boating is about to change very quickly very soon.
To put things in perspective, electric boats are still an extremely small part of the overall market. While 90 exhibitors is impressive, there are almost 2,000 exhibitors at the fair.
Still, there is no doubt that the industry and the public are both starting to take notice. There are new companies starting every day, and just as importantly, existing companies are developing and launching new electric boats, motors and accessories.
In talking with many people, they also expressed the idea that electric boats have moved beyond the stage of just imitating what people expect from fossil fuel boats and are now being seen as a whole new way to enjoy time on the water.
The overall feeling is that the number of options for people wanting electric boats – in every style, size and category – is just going to keep expanding, and at an increasing rate.
Very exciting indeed. Stay tuned!