ALL CHARGED UP
As electric superyacht tenders become ever more popular, Frances and Michael Howorth look into the market and find out why the trend is charging ahead
With yacht owners seeking sustainable and supportable solutions to satisfy their sailing aspirations, the business of building electric superyacht tenders is all charged up and rapidly
evolving. The development behind this trend, is being driven by technical innovation, advances in battery technology, electric motor improvement, and charging infrastructure.
One of the key technical developments that has enabled the rise of electric superyacht tenders is the development of high capacity batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have emerged as the leading technology for powering electric boats due to their high energy density, low weight, and long life. These batteries can store large amounts of energy in a relatively small space, making them well-suited for use in electric superyacht tenders.
It is the emergence of these high capacity Li-ion batteries that is opening up the marketplace. The use of lithium-ion batteries in electric superyacht tenders has also been facilitated by advances in charging infrastructure. Many marinas and ports now offer electric charging facilities, allowing yacht owners to recharge their tender’s batteries while they are docked. This trend is growing fast in many countries around the Mediterranean and one company in particular driving this forward is Aqua superPower. In addition, portable charging units have become increasingly popular, enabling yacht owners to recharge their electric superyacht tenders while at anchor or on remote beaches.
“The competitive advantage of our Wave e-550 is that you can plug it on any plug (16A or 32A),” Marion Vitrat from Magonis Electric Boats says. Marion continues, “From 0 to 100%, with a 32A plug, you will have your boat charged within 5 hours. With a 16A, you will need 10 hours. Shortly, the Wave will be able to use fast chargers, and charge the boat in less than 1 hour.”
Charles Hall, CEO of Pixii says, “Charging facilities around the Mediterranean are improving, but there is still room for growth. Here at Pixii, we are working closely with our partners and local authorities to ensure that our customers have access to the best possible charging facilities in the region.”
Today, most marinas and many smaller harbours offer charging possibilities. “The C-8 from Candela can be charged using any three phase outlet, and that is available in most Mediterranean marinas,” says Max Carlgren. Most commonly, a standard outlet charging is used to charge small boats, but increasingly harbours are offering fast charging from dedicated charging stations. “You can charge an X Shore boat with a three-phase socket, says Connor Batty. “The availability of fast chargers along the coast and in the archipelago is still quite limited, but as more electric boats enter the market, the electrical infrastructure at sea will grow as well. As X Shore expands its connections with marinas, harbours, and charging station manufacturers and operators, we hope to further expand the availability of fast charging across the globe.”
The RS Marine Pulse can be charged using both CCS fast-changing (Aqua superPower) and standard pontoon 16amp power. “By the end of 2023, the Mediterranean will be very well covered for both slow and fast charging,” says Paddy James.
In Spain, Luis Ponce from Lasai says, “In Europe the law is pushing in the direction we have chosen: sustainable recreational boating. The industry is becoming more and more aware that the future is going in this direction. As a consequence, there are more and more super chargers. Marinas are a service and tend to meet the demand in advance. In this sense we do not see difficulties but allies.”
Another key technical development in the field of electric superyacht tenders has been the development of high-performance electric motors. Electric motors have several advantages over traditional internal combustion engines, including lower noise levels, reduced vibration, and higher torque at low speeds.
SELLING OR NOT?
Perhaps because the technology is so new there is a reluctance amongst manufacturers to shout about their successes. There is strong evidence to suggest that tenders are being purchased for superyacht use but it is very difficult to pinpoint who has bought them and where they are being used.
Charles Hall from Pixii tells us, “We have received strong interest from the superyacht market. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose names due to confidentiality agreements. However, we can say that our boats have been well received by the superyacht community, and many of our customers have commented on the quiet and comfortable boating experience that they offer.”
The same story is emerging from Candela in Sweden, where Max Carlgren, says, “We have sold boats to superyacht owners, but we have agreed with them, not to disclose who they are.” Connor Batty at XShore says, “We do not reveal the companies or captains that have bought our boats for confidentiality reasons. But the X Shore 1 is an ideal tender boat for superyachts. Its design is modular – fitting easily on board boats and in garages. What’s more, with a converter, it is easy to charge the X Shore 1 whilst using the tender alongside your superyacht.”
In the UK Paddy James of RS Marine says, “We are due to deliver boats to superyachts in 2025, I’m afraid all projects are covered by NDAs.” “It is still too early for us to get into the superyacht market,” says Luis Ponce from Lasai, “But I can say that we met a lot of yachtsmen who came to see us at the Düsseldorf Boat Show. They know that sustainable recreational boating is the future!”
In addition to these advantages, electric motors are also more efficient than internal combustion engines, converting a higher percentage of the energy stored in the battery into propulsive power. This means that electric superyacht tenders can travel further and faster on a single charge than their internal combustion counterparts.
The development of high performance electric motors has also enabled the production of electric superyacht tenders that can reach high speeds. While early electric boats were limited to low speeds, modern electric motors can produce high levels of power, allowing electric superyacht tenders to reach speeds of up to 40 knots or more.
UNIQUE SELLING POINTS
As more electric tenders come to the market it is inevitable that some will have features that others do not. Sorting out which to buy is going to be difficult but it pays to match what you expect from a tender against what the market is currently offering. It should go without saying that all fully electric tenders should be soundless in operation and emission free when underway while incurring minimal impact on marine life.
Charles Hall at Pixxi says, “Additionally, our boats have a unique and innovative design that is not yet seen in the market. Our hulls are aluminium with little waste in manufacture and 100% recyclable at end of life. They are designed for maximum efficiency, with a focus on speed and range. Our boats are equipped with the latest technology, and work seamlessly with Savvy Navvy and include advanced battery management systems and electric motors that are highly efficient and powerful. Our boats are customisable to meet the needs of our customers, with a range of options for seating, storage, and entertainment systems.
Max Carlgren says it is the 57 NM range his Candela boats offers at 22 knots that are the standout feature. Adding, “That is unmatched by any other electric boat.” He brags that the company’s C-8 offers a totally silent ride explaining that other electric boats suffer from motor noise and sounds of water hitting against the hull at speed. He further adds, “It is super smooth since you fly over the waves. No seasickness or having to hold on to grab bars, passengers just sit down and enjoy the ride – it’s super fun to fly over the water! Instead of following the trend of larger motors, we went for efficiency by building a pod motor optimised for hydrofoiling. Instead of creating huge swells, C-8 leaves no wake behind.”
Connor Batty introduces pricing as a USP pointing out that X Shore boats are around a third of the price of other electric boats on the market. For Paddy James it is the stylish and modern bespoke deck layouts and designs of the Pulse 63 RIBs that are the tenders outstanding feature. Luis Ponce on the other hand insists that it is the ability to charge Lasai boats using solar panels installed on the boat’s hard top that makes his boats top of the list. He says, “The energy captured from the sun is able to propel the boat with discharged batteries. At the same time it is a source that constantly replenishes the batteries so if you need to plug the boat in the harbour it will not take much time.”
Despite these advances, there are still some challenges facing the development of electric superyacht tenders.
One of the key challenges is range anxiety, or the fear of running out of power before reaching a charging point. While advances in battery technology have greatly increased the range of electric superyacht tenders, there is still a need for improved battery technology and charging infrastructure to fully address this issue.
BANG IN THE BATTERIES
Batteries, their design, and installation are all critical when it comes to building the perfect electric tender. They are perhaps the most challenging aspects of construction.
Charles Hall agrees saying, “The most challenging aspect is ensuring that they are properly integrated into the boat’s structure while also maximising their capacity and efficiency. This requires careful planning and coordination between our design and engineering teams. Connor Batty has a contrary argument. He says, “X Shore does not see design and fitting in the batteries as a challenge, but as an opportunity. X Shore’s batteries have the same weight consistently, unlike in fossil fuel-driven boats, where the weight changes as the fuel burns. For this reason, the fitting of our batteries has been easy.”
“The most difficult part is building the flight controller computer that keeps the boat steady at all conditions. It took several years of coding and testing, but since 2019 we have been delivering electric hydrofoils globally, to the EU, US, Middle East and New Zealand,” says Candela’s Max Carlgren. He adds, “ Fitting the batteries is just a matter of placing them low in the hull to keep the centre of gravity low and above the main front foil.”
Ensuring that you keep the centre of the mass low is key says Paddy James at the RS Marine Group. He adds, “We make sure the weight of the batteries is distributed well across the length of the hull.”
Another challenge facing the development of electric superyacht tenders is the higher initial cost compared to traditional internal combustion engine tenders. While the total cost of ownership over the life of an electric superyacht tender is often lower due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, the higher upfront cost can be a barrier for some yacht owners.
Despite these challenges, the market for electric superyacht tenders is growing rapidly as more yacht owners seek sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to their boating needs. In addition to the environmental benefits of electric superyacht tenders, they also offer several other advantages, including lower noise levels, reduced vibration, and improved manoeuvrability.
We asked our panel of experts to look into their crystal balls and tell us where we might be in say five year’s time asking them what they thought the next big move for batteries and power storage might be. Speaking on behalf of X Shore, Connor Batty thought, “Power storage needs are likely to grow as intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar become a larger share of the energy mix. The power storage ecosystem and business model are yet to become fully developed and I believe that a lot will be shaped in the next few years. Ask yourself,” he said, “Will this be integrated into ‘power as a service’ models by energy suppliers? How can private cars and boats be integrated into the system? What will the usage of second life batteries be like?” He added, “I believe on the battery side, new materials are likely to be explored and identified in the coming years, which will enable us to find more efficient and modular solutions in this area.” But he warned, “Self-sufficiency in the EU and North America are political questions that are likely to move up on the agenda.”
Charles Hall believes, “The next big move for batteries and power storage is the development of more advanced and efficient battery technologies. We are closely monitoring developments in this area and are committed to incorporating the latest advancements into our boats.”
Marion Vitrat at Magonis Electric Boats thinks the next big thing will be, “Fast charging available in the next few weeks to charge the boat in less than 1 hour.” Max Carlgren of Candela in Sweden has similar thoughts saying, “Since we have an extremely energy efficient boat, we can get good range on small batteries. This also gives the benefit of faster charging compared to boats with very large battery packs. That said, we expect battery capacity to increase, and the C-8 battery is easily accessed if you want to upgrade to a higher capacity battery in the future. We are quite confident that the networks of charge stations will grow.”
Bringing a sense of balance to the argument Paddy James of the RS Marine Group in the UK says, “We do not believe there will be a big move forward; we see a slow, steady development of the current technology.”
In conclusion, the development of electric superyacht tenders has been driven by several technical innovations, including advances in battery technology, electric motors, and charging infrastructure. While there are still some challenges facing the development of electric superyacht tenders, the market is growing rapidly as more yacht owners seek sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to their boating needs. We are seeing many marine combustion engines manufacturers investing in electric battery and engine technology, this gives us the heads up on what is coming around the corner. With continued investment in research and development, it is likely that electric superyacht tenders will become even more advanced and widely adopted in the years to come.