New Halevai electric trimaran a ‘hybrid’ on experience, not power

When Halevai Boats CEO and co-founder Frank Heidinger set out to build an electric boat with broad appeal, he didn’t know it was going to be a different kind of ‘hybrid’, but that was where the journey took him as he followed his company’s motto: We will.

The end result is the Halevai model2050, an electric trimaran with seating for 10, a dining area, sun beds, swim platform, power to do some tubing or waterskiing and enough range for a quiet, no-stress day on the water

Open mind about hull

Heidinger is an avid boater and diver who has loved the water all his life and has worked to preserve it from pollutants and other harm. In 2012 he helped form the environmental organization Parley for the Oceans and was on the team that created the first UN World Oceans Week Summit.

In 2020 he decided to build an electric boat that would make it an easier decision for boaters to ‘go electric’. He had a totally open mind about how that might turn out.

“The only thing we really knew” he says, “is that we didn’t want to just jump to a V-hull or standard displacement hull, we wanted to find the best solution for electric propulsion, whatever that might be.”

Frank Heidinger of Halevai boats
Frank Heidinger, CEO and co-founder, Halevai

“We spent a good six months with naval architects, looking at flow dynamics and load applications…what’s the length, width, and weight we need to really get the most optimal performance while still staying within a reasonable price range. We recognize that electric propulsion systems are going to be more expensive than ICE, but we wanted this to be as accessible as possible.”

In the end, they decided on a trimaran semi-planing hull. “It’s the most performance efficient” says Heidinger. “You have a cruise speed of about six and a half knots ( ≈ 8 mph / 12 kmh), and then you reach a planing speed around 11 knots (12.5 mph / 20 khm).”

“So the key is to account for the greatest amount of forces that are required between those two speeds. Once you’re up on plane, with the trimaran the power demand curve drops significantly, unlike a deep V-hull, which still requires a lot of energy and power to keep it on plane.”

Partnered with Hypercraft

Knowing what they needed for power, next came the decision on the drive train. While many new electric boatbuilders prefer to select a motor and match it with the battery package they feel best suits their needs, Halevai decided to partner with Hypercraft, an EV drive train company in Utah that started out a bit like a Halevai on land – they had wanted to build their own electric powersports vehicles. Their first experience made them change the focus of the company, though.

“We went out to the market to find someone to supply us with motors, batteries and the other components we needed for an EV,” Hypercraft CEO and co-founder Jake Hawksworth explained to Art Raymond of the Deseret (Utah) News, “but nobody could supply us with a turn-key system. You could find individual components but it was up to us to develop a full powertrain.”

That made Hawksworth and his partners decide there was a better opportunity in supplying electric drivetrains rather than making EVs themselves. For clients, they focused on builders of high performance vehicles racing in off-road events like Ultra4’s King of the Hammer series and NASA-sanctioned touring car road racing.

electric trimaran cutaway view showing motor and batteries

They were open and flexible to whatever the project demanded, so Hypercraft was the perfect match for Frank Heidinger and his team. They knew that many people are a bit unsure about the idea of a boat being powered by electricity powered, so they wanted to build in a comfort factor by using components that owners would already be familiar with.

That’s why they chose the Mercury Alpha One sterndrive / inboard-outboard unit. It is one of the best selling, most time-tested on the market and has earned a reputation for reliability. Because so many have been manufactured for so long, it also has a price point much more attractive than building a whole new system.

The Halevai/Hypercraft engineers set to work creating a proprietary system for integrating an electric motor with the Mercury outdrive. The motor itself, a Cascadia Motion iM-225, is well known in the industry for being robust and reliable, with continuous power and torque of 135 kW (185 hp) / 230 Newton-metres and peak power of 225 kW (300 hp) / 500 Nm. 

Range: 35-40 nautical miles at cruising speed

For the battery, cost was also a key consideration. It is obviously an important factor in any boat buying decision, and the biggest cost difference between a fossil fuel boat and electric is in the battery.

That difference can be explained to the customer in the context of it being a one-off cost, the owner is basically prepaying for 10 years worth of fuel upfront, but anything that can be done to keep the battery cost down is important. That’s why the efficiency of the electric trimaran hull is so important.

Questions about e-boat batteries? Read the Plugboats Battery Guide

“We explored lots of viable options”, says Heidinger. “We tested 40 kiloWatt hour battery packs, 60, 75 and 100s, to look at what it means for range, what it means for voltage, what it means for applied force. Where we landed for the model2050 is at a basic entry-level model that runs at 400 volts with 75 kilowatt hours.”

Halevai electric trimaran overhead view

“That gets you between 35 and 40 nautical miles range at cruising speeds between 20 and 25 knots (23- 29 mph / 37-45 kmh). If you bump it up to 100 kWhs, you’ll get about 50 to 60 nautical miles range, but this is not meant to be an offshore boat. For lakes, though, inland waterways, bays, tidal estuaries, rivers…this is a perfect vehicle.”

That also means that the boat is less a means of getting from Point A to Point B and more a means of getting the most enjoyment out of your time on the water.

model2050 ‘a whole new model for electric boating’

This is where the idea of the ‘hybrid experience’ came from.

“When we looked at what boaters wanted and especially boating families,” says Frank, “we realized we needed to create a whole new model, a hybrid experience that takes advantage of the benefits of electric as well as the trimaran hull.”

“What we did is take the open deck and all the space, then marry it with a bit of a centre console feel – more streamlined and sexy than a typical tritoon –  and then looked at some of the European styles where you have seating up front, a retractable table for dining if you like, then day beds / sun beds in the back.”

electric trimaran with people swimming, paddleboarding

So we put it together and it’s interesting how people have responded. Actually, my wife is fairly typical. We have a friend in Miami who has a nice centre console. He’s very generous and takes us out on it, but my wife says ‘’You know what? I love his boat, but I would rather be on the Halevai, I can lay out and take in the sun and there’s more room and it’s just more spacious.’

Kids love it because there’s three sections – they can hang out in the forward part with the seats and a  table, they can be in the helm section with the ‘captain’ and at back, with the stern drive instead of an outboard there’s this big open swim platform with no obstruction. Right on the water, easy in and out. It’s super comfortable to get on and off the boat. And that was the idea.

Heidinger continues, “What we also wanted to do is show people how easy electric boating is, right from the start. There’s no blowers to turn on, no key, you just fob on and you hear a little click and a green button tells you you’re ready to shift into reverse and go.”

Flexible use

“I’m glad we started with a clean slate” says Heidinger. “It made us rethink some things along the way and I think the model2050 has turned out to be an electric boat that is right for a lot of people, especially families. We decided to put the experience on the deck and let electric propulsion do what it is good at.”

With the trimaran semi-planing hull, the drive train/battery system and the well thought out deck, the Halevai is good at a lot. It can cruise along for hours on a nice day with space for people to lie out on the sun beds, go swimming or have a drink and a bite to eat at the dining table.

It has the power for tubing and water skiing, and that power also comes in handy on a rougher day, or to get to a favourite spot quickly.

“I think the main differentiating factor for the Halevai model2050 is that we chose a hull that lowers the required force and then also provides lots of space and on deck options. We’ve taken away a lot of the uncertainty people have by incorporating the Mercury stern drive and Symrad electronics people are familiar with. We’ve tried to make it an easy decision for people to go electric, and I think our ‘hybrid experience’ goes a long way towards that.”

Halevai  Hypercraft

Halevai model2050

Length LOA 24′
Beam 8′ 6″
Draft 21″
Dry Weight 4,000 lbs
Motor Cascadia Motion iM-225
Drive Mercury Alpha 1 Gen 2 Bravo 2
Max Motor Power 250 kW / 300 hp
Battery 75kWh (standard), 100kWh (extended)
Passengers 10
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