Electric speedboat battery company acquired by John Deere

One of the world’s largest equipment manufacturers has purchased a majority stake in Kreisel Electric, the company building the electric speedboat battery for the Racebirds of the upcoming E1 Series powerboat championship.

John Deere obviously knows that electrification is going to be a game changer in agriculture and construction, and Kreisel definitely knows high performance batteries.

Kreisel electric boat battery powered this SAY 29 boat's world speed record

The company was founded in 2014 by three brothers – Philipp, Johann and Markus Kreisel – from the village of Freistadt, Austria who have electrified everything from a go kart to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hummer. On the water their work is at the heart of some of the world’s most impressive e-boats, including the Carbon SAY 29, which holds the world record for fastest production electric boat.

In addition to the batteries, John Deere was attracted by Kriesel’s CHIMERO high speed charging infrastructure platform, which can charge an EV from 0-80% in 20 minutes and is built for easy installation. This will enable Deere to offer an all-in-one electrification package to agriculture, construction and other industry clients that need off-highway solutions. 

Patented battery technology years in the making 

The Kreisel battery technology has two patented features that make their products world leaders in energy density and durability. One is a system that uses a contact spring and lasers, instead of welding, to connect the individual cells in a battery module. The result is high conductivity as well as a fuse for each cell. The other patented feature is their Hollowblock cooling system, which surrounds the cells with a non-conductive liquid that dissipates heat very efficiently.

Not exactly sure about battery terminology? Read the Plugboats Guide to Electric Boat Batteries

The Kreisel brothers grew up working in the family’s electronics store while tinkering and experimenting at every opportunity. When they started working on electrifying an old VW Beetle they needed some space and rented a garage workshop across the street from the family home.

They quickly realized that they would need to get innovative on the battery front to achieve their e-mobility goals. With the enthusiasm and optimism of youth they approached the task of improving battery efficiency with completely open minds.

Their progress was remarkable. The year they launched the company they set the world acceleration record for go-karts with an electric model that went from 0-100 km/h (63mph) in 3.1 seconds, smashing the old record by a third of a second.

They started to gather attention from Tier 1 automakers when they performed the same feat on a 1960s Porsche 910, turning it into the electric ‘EVEX 910E’ that could go from 0 to 100 kmh in 2.5 seconds (0-60 mph in 2.4 secs), with a top speed of 300 km/h (185 mph) and range of 450 km (280 miles).

“You made a dream of mine a reality”

That helped lead to an order of 2,000 battery packs for Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, and they cemented their growing reputation by showing VW how to increase the energy storage capacity of an eGolf by 130%. They were running out of space in the garage (!) and ground was broken on a gleaming 7,000 square metre factory, testing and R&D centre (≈ 68,000 sq ft).

Fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger had been taking note of his countrymen and asked them if they could electrify his Mercedes G Class SUV, which they did, ripping out the ICE and installing a 360kW electric system (≈ 490 hp).

After a year of driving it he came back with another challenge and visited the new factory in September  2017 to see the results. “You made a dream of mine a reality” he told the Kreisels in front of a congregation of Europe’s e-mobility leaders. “Everyone told me that I cannot turn my Hummer electric. But then you came – and you did it! Thank you for your dedication and for your vision of seeing a green future.”

Electric speedboat battery powers world record

Another innovator who came to visit the Kreisels was Karl Wagner, CEO of SAY Carbon Yachts. He had previously been CEO of CarboTech, which manufactured carbon fibre components for Formula 1 and high end sports cars.

SAY makes incredible luxury carbon fibre speedboats with ICE motors as big as 483hp and had an idea to pursue the world record for a production (rather than one-off) electric boat by working with Kreisel to work their magic on a SAY Carbon 29. 

On June 24, 2018, they took to the water of Lake Zell in Zell am See, Austria with SAY pilot Claas Wollschläger at the helm and set the record of 50 knots (93 km/h, 57.5mph). During one of the runs the boat actually hit a speed of 95 km/h, but the rules of the international powerboat authority UIM (Union International de Motonautic) require 6 runs that are then averaged. 

All of these achievements made Kreisel the natural choice to partner with the new UIM E1 Series – the world’s first and only electric powerboat racing circuit. The hydrofoiling RaceBird boats participating in E1 will have maximum peak power of 150kW and 35 kWh battery capacity. Kreisel’s bespoke solution for the RaceBirds will enable them to achieve fast acceleration and long range between charges.

Rodi Basso, Co-Founder & CEO of E1 says “E1 and Kreisel’s shared vision to electrify future leisure craft made them the obvious choice as official battery partner for the championship. As an engineer myself, I’m so excited to be working alongside these leaders in their field to deliver an electric powerboat and push the boundaries of performance capability.”

Returning to the John Deere investment, the partnership is similar to the arrangement of GM’s $150M stake in electric outboard company Pure Watercraft, where each company brings their unique strengths to the marriage. 

Everything will be electric by 2050 at the latest

Kreisel Electric will retain its employees, brand name, and trademark, and continue to operate from its state-of-the-art Austrian facility to grow its customer base in land and water electric mobility. It now has about 160 employees.

“Deere will provide the expertise, global footprint, and funding to help accelerate that growth in core markets” said Pierre Guyot, Senior Vice President, John Deere Power Systems. “For us, their in-market experience will benefit Deere as we ramp up our battery-electric vehicle portfolio and apply it across a broad portfolio of products.”

From the moment the young Kreisels started experimenting in their Freistadt home they had big ambitions, goals and plans to make emobility available for every day use by everyone. Markus told German broadcaster DW last year “The vision is very clear. By 2050 at the very latest, we see that everything will be electric. The world needs it, and the great thing is that it can be implemented on a sustainable and regional basis.”

Looking out over the stunning mountains and countryside around their headquarters, he said “Our whole team is made of very down to earth people who want to do something for the next generation. Nature is gorgeous. We all want to help keep it that way.” 

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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