IBEX 2017: Torqeedo sees rising interest in electric power for boats

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Marcia Kull

Marcia Kull

TAMPA, Fla. — After new boats were unveiled at the Newport International Boat Show and the Cannes Yachting Festival with Torqeedo electric power, Torqeedo president Marcia Kull said interest in electric power for boats is growing.

“It’s moving from, ‘No I’ll never’ to ‘Tell me more,’ and that evolution has come to us basically through the auto industry,” said Kull.

Kull said that at the Newport show last week and at this week’s International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, inquiries and interest in electric power for boats have grown, especially with lightweight electric motors for boats such as kayaks and canoes.

For 2018 Torqeedo is introducing an Advanced Mounting System, which allows an electrically powered ultra-light outboard to be mounted on any kayak with a power pole mounting plate. That means the motor can be installed on a boat without the need for drilling any holes, making it more applicable for rental and other applications.

Kull said the increase in interest in Torqeedo motors for fishing from kayaks and other small boats is being driven by bass fishermen. “It’s an access issue,” she said. “It’s a grow-the-sport issue.”

One thing that has helped Torqeedo increase awareness about electric power is the partnership the company has with BMW for lithium ion batteries. “It brings to our customers the automotive scale and engineering,” she said. “It’s longer life, better capacity, better power-to-weight ratio and increased density.”

Additionally, Torqeedo is working with lithium ion battery suppliers from Korea and Japan to source components. “It’s not just the chemistry and how we put it together, it’s the quality control,” said Kull. “It’s how you assemble them, the clean environment.”

As the idea of electrically propelled boats grows, Kull said, “We are on the cusp of something.” She said Torqeedo has experienced 38 percent growth in 2017, adding, “It’s been a steady growth.”

Kull explained that she is responsible for global sales on the recreational and commercial fronts. San Antonio recently ordered 44 water taxis with Torqeedo power for use on the city’s popular Riverwalk area. Kull also pointed to China and the Middle East as potential commercial outlets for Torqeedo products. South America is similar to Asia, with users looking to reduce greenhouse emissions.

In North America, Kull said, “people are choosing electric propulsion because they want electric propulsion.” She said she hopes that boats such as the new Hinckley with electric power will draw people to electric boats because of the experience it provides.

“When we start seeing more Hinckley-like, purpose-built boats, people will be thrilled,” said Kull. She acknowledged that a customer will pay more for a Torqeedo electrically powered propulsion system, but said the rise in inquiries shows consumers aren’t scared off by the increased cost.

“What do you pay for little or no maintenance?” said Kull. “What do you pay for no fuel? What do you pay for reducing your carbon footprint?”

Torqeedo has been working with pontoon boat manufacturers such as Bennington and Tracker. Kull would like to see the first entry-level electrically powered boat by the fall of 2018.

For hybrid packages, Torqeedo continues to work with Greenline Yachts, producing the energy-management system that monitors an entire boat’s electrical system, not just the engines and batteries.

Using the electric power can potentially cut the diesel-engine side of the hybrid system by a third, which reduces the amount of money an owner must spend on maintenance for those diesel engines.

“If you can cut your [diesel] engine hours by a third, you can cut your maintenance costs by a third,” said Kull. “You pay more for electrical propulsion systems because you get more. Purpose-built electric boating is here.

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