Sunday Times

Swanky set eye plug-in electric boats


● The auto industry is already going electric. A Swedish start-up is convinced boats are next. Stockholm-based X Shore raised €15m (R260m) from investors to scale up production of its battery-powered leisure boat to tap into the growing market for environmen­tally friendly luxury marine rides.

The company’s Eelex 8000, an 8m vessel powered by a 120kWh battery, went on sale in the US last month, but X Shore is struggling to fill ballooning orders from its small Stockholm factory. The start-up plans to use the funding to increase production to about 400 boats a year, said CEO Jenny Keisu.

“What is happening now in the boating market is what has already started in the car industry. We have more demand than we can supply and that’s why we are raising capital,” Keisu said.

While the market for electric leisure boats remains small — 15,000 vessels were sold last year — it is expected to increase to 70,000 shipments and a total size of $1.4bn (R20bn) by the end of this decade, according to researcher IDTechEx.

Growth is “slow and steady,” and driven mainly by technology improvemen­ts and environmen­tal enthusiast­s, according to the firm’s senior technology analyst Luke Gear. It’s held back because emissions rules and purchasing subsidies that helped drive electric-car sales aren’t yet matched for the ship industry, he said.

That may be about to change. Norway, a global leader in adopting electric cars, in February reaffirmed plans to ban emissions from vessels in certain fjords by 2026. Keisu said X Shore has been inundated with calls from Norwegian salmon farmers since.

“It’s hard to say how big this market will become since it’s growing so fast and is driven by regulation,” she said. “It’s only fairly recently that there has been a better understand­ing of how much emissions leisure boats produce.”

While most electric leisure boats are small and lack power, her company is targeting buyers willing to dish out for vessels with a performanc­e on par with models running on fossil fuels. The Eelex 8000, the company’s only product to date, boasts a top speed of 35 knots and comes with a 24-inch touchscree­n and a stereo audio system. It starts at about €250,000.

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