ePropulsion has launched its next model Spirit 1.0 electric boat motor – the Spirit 1.0 Plus – in the US market, along with a new range of LiFePo4 batteries called the E-Series.
The Spirit 1 Plus and E-Series have been selling in the UK since April and are now being made available to US dealers and consumers through ePropulsion’s stateside distributors, Mack Boring (East) and Four Seas (West).
The main difference between the original Spirit 1 and the Spirit 1 Plus is that the nominal voltage for the Plus is 48V, while it was 40.7V for the original model. This means that the rated voltage is now the same across the complete line of ePropusion outboards: the Spirit 1.0 Plus, the Navy 3.0 and Navy 6.0. The chemistry of all ePropulsion batteries is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4).
Not coincidentally, all of the three batteries in the E-Series line are also 48V, and have kiloWatt (kWh) hour capacities of 2.05 kWh (the E40), 4.1 kWh (E80) and almost 9kWh (8.960) for the E175.
To be clear, the E40 battery is an auxiliary battery and not the battery that comes standard with the Spirit 1.0 Plus. The standard pack has 1.276kWh, about half of the E40 capacity. That is still bigger than the pack on the first edition of the motor, and compared to that original Spirit the Plus has a range of about 25% more than the original.
The result is that the Spirit 1.0 Plus can go for 5 hours at cruising/economical speed and an hour and a quarter at full speed. (Depending on the weight of the load.)
ePropulsion founded in 2012
ePropulsion was founded in 2012 by four mechanical and electrical engineering students at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) which is #27 on the QS World University Rankings.
The leader of the group was Danny Tao, a water sports enthusiast who used to kayak out to enjoy a quiet area about five kilometres from the campus on Clear Water Bay. As more and more friends started to join him, they tried taking a rowboat out there one day. “Not a good idea,” he recalls. “The boat sat deep in the water and it was incredibly difficult to move.”
He also worked as a volunteer with an ocean protection organization, so wasn’t interested in using a smelly noisy fossil fuel motor to get to their destination. He bought a used electric motor, installed a shaft and a propeller and took it on to the rowboat. (Not so much different from Gustave Trouvé attaching a portable electric motor to a boat on the River Seine 130 years earlier.)
Taken by the possibilities for an electric boat motor, Tao did his master’s thesis on how to build a company to manufacture them. He was encouraged by his advising professor, Li Zexiang, chairman of the largest consumer drone company in the world, DJI.
By 2014 the company was rolling, the ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 was ready for the world and it was introduced at Amsterdam’s METStrade show in 2015.
Speaking at the show about the development of the Spirit, Tao told sail24.com “At first we thought that power was crucial, but now we know that the weight of the product plays a bigger role.”
Focus on 3 motors – with some offshoots!
Using that learning ePropulsion has grown by choosing to concentrate on only three outboard models – Spirit, Navy 3.0 and Navy 6.0 – rather than develop many different motors across a wide power range. The 1.0kW/3hp and 3kW/6hp motors also come as pods for sailboats and the company partnered with RSSailing last year to develop a a custom configuration for the RS21 keelboat day racers.
Danny Tao’s love of other water sports also led the company to develop the Vaquita light motor for SUP and kayak, Mertek electric surfboard and, perhaps with some influence from DJI, the Navatics underwater drone.
In 2018 ePropulsion was named one of the most 50 valuable Chinese Technological companies and also received a $10M investment from venture capital fund Beyond Ventures and Brizan Investments that will help grow the Navatics MITO – a 4K subsea drone that shoots ultra-stable underwater photos and video.
Ready to expand in growing North American market
Over the past 6 years the company has built a strong reputation for reliable and innovative products, such as a wireless module for the Spirit that lets you control the throttle from the bow or centre of the boat without the hassle of cables and connectors.
Now well established in Europe, where the electric boat market is older and more developed, ePropulsion is working with Mack Boring and Four Seas to have the same kind of success in North America. The ePropulsion website dealer map shows about 20 locations in the US, but that is sure to expand with the increasing interest in fossil free boats and boating.