New inflatable solar catamaran is ‘light as air’

This new inflatable solar catamaran debuting at the Duesseldorf Boat Show is a clean energy pontoon-type boat that is perfect for taking friends out for a pleasure cruise without them having to yell over the racket of a fossil fuel boat motor. It’s called the Eletricat, by Slovenia’s Hovercraft and you can check it out in person at Duesseldorf in Hall 15 Stall B58.

What a great idea this is. One of the challenges for electric boat motors is pushing the sheer weight of most boats. The basic Electricat hull is 8 metres / 26 feet and weighs only 250 kg / 500 lbs, comparable to a popular Rigid Inflatable Boat of 3.6 m / 11′ 10″.

Hovercraft (not to be confused with the air cushion vehicle) was founded by Blaž Stepišnik in 2003 concentrating on the advertising market, making things like inflatable finish lines for boat races.

In 2013 he saw opportunities beyond inflatables that just sit motionless and started thinking about ways the basic construction technology could be put to use in transport and recreation. The company had an extensive factory with experienced, specialized workers, so adding new products mainly required imagination.

Stepišnik’s imagination took off, along with the company’s line of products.

Inflatable solar catamaran is part of a fleet

The simplest extension into recreation was to make inflatable landing mats for gymnastics and other sports. That transformed into AirBeach, an inflatable, transportable swimming platform that could be strung off the back of a yacht or used as a float alone swimming platform.

Then came the idea of attaching a motor. The first ‘boat’ was the EcoCraft, a floating dining raft with a table, wraparound seating for 8 and a trolling motor to create a sort of ‘moveable feast’.

photos of the four innovations that led up to the inflatable solar catamaran

From there Hovercraft added 2m / 6’ sides, a roof and entrance flap to create a Sea Trailer which can be towed by another boat or PWC or have its own electric motor.

The 8m inflatable ferry boat was next, with the ability to carry things like an ATV or a small dredging unit.

The Electricat, which they developed in 2019 and is making its debut at the Duesseldorf show,  is basically the ferry but with a roof that holds 8 solar panels providing energy to power an electric motor.

centre console for the inflatable solar catamaranThe Electricat can carry a load of 2,000 kg /4,400 lb, which allows for a pretty good sized number of people on board even when all of the extras have been added to the basic hull. Those extras include a centre console for the pilot, cushions for seating that can be configured to be beds, a ladder, extra side fenders and other options.

The boat is made of the composite honeycomb construction and double walled fabric used on the  ferry and other items, and the deck area is 18.2 sq. metres / 200 sq. ft which can accomodate 20 people, weight permitting.

Read about all of the other electric boat premiers, news and debuts at Duesseldorf 2020

You can attach any electric motor you prefer – Hovercraft says to expect a cruising speed of 8 knots (14 km/h) with 4 people on board and a 3 kW/ 5HP motor or 14 kts (25 km/h) with a 12kW/15HP motor. Running only on solar a range of 100km can be achieved, with the sunshine of Germany as the test conditions. Presumably that’s summer sun and day length.

Electric boats started as leisurely cruise boats like the Elco models in one of our Throwback Thursdays that date back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Now, of course, motors and batteries allow for much higher speed, but the peace and quiet of an electric motor makes it the perfect motor for pontoon-type boats.

Lots of electric cruising boat innovations in 2019

In the past year there have other new looks at revisiting the standard floating raft. The Elux in Minnesota, USA makes the pontoons a fashionable as well as functional aspect of the boat, and the award-winning Bagoù from France from France turns catamaran pontoons upside down to make a sort of living room on the water.

The Electricat inflatable solar catamaran is another way to enjoy a quiet day on the water, and is made for a different price bracket and lifestyle.  With different boats appealing to different audiences, it can only help spread the good word about electric boats and boating.

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