The world of electric boating has seen a lot of big news in the past few weeks, and the Nautique all-electric ski boat, the GS22-E introduced at the Miami Boat Show may be the biggest of all. That is reflected in the presentation of the Miami International Boat Show’s Innovation Award to the Ingenity electric drive system in the GS22-E.
This is important because Nautique is the world’s leading manufacturer of ski and wakeboarding boats – boats that by definition need to go fast and be on the water for a few hours. Production figures aren’t publicly available, but Nautique has a 250,000 sq. ft. factory and mother company Correct Craft is the largest manufacturing company in Orlando, Florida. They make and sell a LOT of boats. This isn’t something put together to capitalize on a fad.
Nautique all-electric ski boat meets watersports demands
The other reason it is big news is because of the nature of the boats and the challenge. As Sean Marrero, President of Ingenity says, “With thousands of pounds of ballast and different devices to create better wake shapes, watersports boats weren’t designed for efficiency, they were designed for fun”. This couldn’t be an electric boat for the sake of being electric, it had to perform and entertain.
The US has lagged behind Europe in terms of adopting electric boats, largely due to the fact that gas (petrol) motors have been banned or restricted on many European waters for decades in some cases. Gasoline is cheaper in the US (particularly in the past few years) and it is a country that loves speed. There hasn’t been a big push to electrify boats.
That looks like it may change, although it is obviously impossible to tell how quickly. Wikipedia tells us there are 11 million waterskiers in the US. They (and other boat manufacturers in the US) will be looking very closely at this, and Nautique obviously sees the potential for electric boats to be mainstream products one day.
Development initiated in 2018
The Nautique all-electric ski boat was developed in conjunction with Ingenity and another Correct Craft company, Watershed Innovation. Watershed was launched by Correct Craft in February of 2018 with the goal of “ identifying, evaluating and implementing new technologies for Correct Craft and its other subsidiaries, as well as the entire marine industry.” The company’s slogan is “A Better Tomorrow Today”.
In July of 2018 Correct Craft acquired the Ingenity P220 electric boat drive system from Austria’s OrtnerBoote company. The goal of that acquisition was to “help prepare Correct Craft’s Pleasurecraft Engine Group and the company’s boat brands for the inevitable future beyond internal combustion engines.”
Put them together and fast forward (though some impatient electric boat enthusiasts might say slow forward) to January 2020. At the Seattle Boat Show Nautique’s President Greg Meloon did an Instagram video teasing the Nautique E-200. Then this week came the grand unveiling, as seen in this produced video with both Mr. Meloon and Mr. Marrero:
The boat (and motor and battery) seem to be a realization of at least some of the vision of Correct Craft President Bill Yaergin. Last year he wrote a guest article for Boating Industry News, ‘The Future is Bright‘ that wasn’t focused on the boat industry only, but on the future in general. He said: “Increasing computational power is transforming the world and will lead to technological breakthroughs over the next ten years we can hardly imagine. Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 3D printing, 5G technology, biotech, robotics, solarization, nanotechnology and other technologies are poised to explode.”
Yaergin has been President of the company since 2006, and under his watch Nautique was investigating electric boats as early as 2011 with a model called the Super Air Nautique 230E which. It was reviewed by Boating Magazine with the title: Amazing Electric Ski Boat: Will there be an electric boat in your future?
It seems the answer is yes, though maybe not as quickly as the article promised. It’s been almost a decade since that review, and the world of electric propulsion has obviously come a long way. One of the biggest hurdles to cross has been the weight and cost of batteries. But with expansion of the electric vehicle industry and the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into battery research, both the weight and cost have fallen dramatically.
Nautique is quiet about the specifics of their Ingenity battery system but it seems the company would not be making a big announcement at the high profile Miami Boat Show unless it felt the 124kWh pack could deliver on it promises: 2-3 hours of typical watersports use and the ability to be recharged in 4 hours using a commercially available EV charger and 1 and a 1/2 hours with a DC supercharger.
As with electric cars, the potential electric boat buyer still has reservations about how far and how long they can go between charges. There is also another very practical consideration for planing boats: how fast. Unlike a car that always has four wheels on the ground and can coast when acceleration stops, a planing boat needs to achieve and maintain a certain speed, which requires significant amounts of power and energy.
Nautique all-electric boat bodes well for whole industry
Because Nautique doesn’t make vessels like pontoon boats that are meant for leisurely cruises and is only in the business of watersports boats, it necessarily had to tackle some tough challenges.
There are other companies that have also put together the motors, battery and boat packages that can achieve the same, or similar results to the Nautique GS22. But the reason this boat is game changing is because it comes from one of the world’s largest recreational boat manufacturers that caters to a fairly mainstream market.
This bodes well for all electric boats and boating in general. As the GS22-E and presumably more models are developed and marketed, other companies will begin to see the reactions of boat owners and perhaps just as important, the people who are towed behind the boats. No longer do they need to be assaulted by fossil fuel exhaust fumes, they will now literally be able to ‘go out and get some fresh air’.