Foiled again: Candela raises another $20M to set course for the future of ferries

Swedish company Candela will launch its 30-passenger commercial hydrofoil shuttle, the P-12, this summer — the vessel it believes will change the course of motorized water transport. Following on from its C-7 and C-8 leisure cruisers, Candela has already been making waves with its drive to transition to fossil-free waterways.

“We are now heavy into the process of finalizing the development and putting this ferry into production, which we think is going to be kind of a game changer in public transportation,” said Gustav Hasselskog, Candela’s founder and CEO.

The company raised SEK 210 million (around $20 million). The investment is co-led by EQT Ventures and investor duo Joel Eklund (Fosielund Holding AB) and Svante Nilo Bengtsson (Marknadspotential AB), with participation from Ocean Zero LLC, among others. This follows its $24 million round from last year

The P-12 is an electric-powered hydrofoil that effectively flies over the surface of the water on computer-guided underwater wings. It has a range of up to 60 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 27 knots. Being electrically powered makes the P-12 cleaner and greener than traditional diesel-fueled craft, which also makes it cheaper to operate. Candela estimates that the P-12 uses 80% less energy than a traditional vessel. 

“It’s a very good thing for the environment; in total the shipping industry is around 3% of total carbon emissions,” says Hasselskog. However, as well as the benefits of being electric-powered, the P-12 is designed to be low maintenance and with lower service costs.

“We use a low maintenance type of dry drain; we have developed this pod motor, which doesn’t have any gears, any oil or anything, it’s just motors underneath the water,” explains Hasselskog.

If the decision to make a passenger vessel with a maximum capacity of 30 people seems a little unusual, it’s because it is designed for coastal, archipelago or lake-based transport, and how people actually use water transport in these geographies. 

“It looks the same in Oslo, in Stockholm, in New York and everywhere: most of these boats are typically 300 passengers. But when you study optimal boat size — especially in Stockholm, Istanbul and in San Francisco — it’s concluded that it’s not the optimal boat size. Seat utilization is typically super low. In Stockholm it’s 5% over the year,” says Hasselskog. “When you have only 30 passengers, you don’t need more than one staff member on board; otherwise, you need three staff members. If you put that all together you get a very good cost equation and that’s why we went with this format. Operators save typically around 40% compared to traditional, large, diesel setups.”

By switching to smaller craft, they can be deployed more flexibly, for example by operating on an on-demand basis rather than by a fixed timetable and traveling to more remote locations. The company says this has a huge benefit for the operators, in the form of cost-efficiency. 

Candela is looking to build on this flexible approach to transport and it is currently developing its own software to enable real-time fleet routing. It’s also very excited by the benefits that the P-12 can bring to passengers.

“The first one we’re going to put in water is for the city of Stockholm. It’s going to run from a suburb outside of town into the center. If you travel that route today by bus and subway, or by the current boat, it takes 50 minutes. We can do that in 25 minutes,” says Hasselskog. “The reason being we don’t create any wake so we have permission to go faster. If we can save commuters’ journey time, that makes a huge difference.” 

For Candela and Hasselskog, the future looks like large fleets of small craft that can travel more quickly to more remote locations, with greater flexibility. It might be starting in Stockholm, but it estimates that the market is €15 billion in size, and it has a global appeal.

”The next step for us here is to… take a place like Stockholm, where there are, say, 35 big ferries today. We will replace them with 120 of ours,” says Hasselskog. And from there: “It’s a global business that we envision and so far, we are in dialogue with hundreds of customers. They are spread from Hong Kong to Sydney. There are a lot in the Gulf region, in Europe, and we have dialogues in Mexico, Belize, San Francisco, New York.”

The company is taking a big bet that bigger isn’t always better, in the hope that smaller can mean faster, greener and more serviceable.

Foiled again: Candela raises another $20M to set course for the future of ferries by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

$60K personal water toy lands $1M worth of preorders

It takes a special kind of boldness to raise a wad of cash, claim to have $90 million worth of preorders, then pivot away from passenger ferries and light container ships, and instead start selling $59,000 personal watercraft. Bold, yes, but the tactic seems to be working. Boundary Layer’s CEO and founder, Ed Kearney, told me the company has more than $1 million worth of preorders.

“After being live for just three weeks we have slightly over $1 million worth of vehicles reserved, mostly to folks in the U.S., and one customer in Kuwait,” Kearney tells me, adding that the company is “on track to demonstrate the prototype in early February.”

The company charges a $1,000 refundable deposit for a place on the waiting list. It remains to be seen when the company will be ready to start shipping the personal watercraft to its customers and whether the company’s investors are enthused about a B2B to B2C pivot in the middle of a complicated world of global financial instability.

One thing is for certain: There’s a lot of activity in the world of hydrofoiling electric boats at the moment. Navier is in the process of preparing for production as well, and Candela raised $24 million for its bid for the hydrofoiling crown.

In the electric non-hydrofoiling boat space, Flux Marine recently landed a $15 million round, Arc raised $30 million and GM snagged a 25% stake in Pure Watercraft about a year ago.

$60K personal water toy lands $1M worth of preorders by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production

Electric leisure boat startup Navier has managed to bring its concept hydrofoiling watercraft into reality, and has opened pre-orders — if you happen to have a few hundred grand laying around. It may not be affordable, but it’s not like the other 30-foot boats you can order are a bargain either. At least this one doesn’t burn 10 gallons of gas an hour.

Navier just picked up a seed round at the beginning of the year, at which point the boat was a 27-foot twinkle in the eyes of its founders, Sampriti Bhattacharyya (whom I met on the “Accelerator at Sea”) and Reo Baird. Now it’s a real 30-foot boat actually plowing through the waves at 25 knots.

The craft is fully electric and uses hydrofoiling to get around the fact that batteries, while fine for wheeled vehicles, run out fast when you’re pushing water out of the way the whole time you’re moving forward. Hydrofoiling basically takes advantage of the physics of how water resists forward motion to cause the bulkiest part of the boat to lift up above the surface, while the propulsion part stays below, attached by thin fins.

The basic approach is not unique — Candela also makes a few electric hydrofoiling boats and is trying to access some of the same markets. But Navier touts a longer range — about 75 nautical miles versus the Candelas’ 50 — and a more leisure-friendly experience. That is to say, cushier cockpit, more focus on user experience, and a sport mode that lets the driver more directly control the boat.

Its foils are also completely retractable, allowing the N30 to navigate shallows without scraping the bottom. Keeping them tucked in also minimizes “biofouling,” i.e. algae and barnacles.

Bhattacharyya was quick to add, though, that she considers Candela more colleague than competitor: the real competition is gas-powered boats. “I think to free our lakes and oceans from the fossil fuel pollutants, and rebuild the maritime industry we all need to do more, and faster. We have to replace our gas rivals — there are a lot of them, and the more folks in the industry can switch to electric quickly, the better we can expedite saving the planet,” she wrote in an email.

Aerial view of the Navier boat at its debut.

Of course at $300,000 a pop, they won’t be replacing dinghies with 5-horsepower outboards. This is aimed more at both the luxury crowd and at institutional customers like water taxi services. Fuel is expensive, narrowing already thin margins in marine transport operations. A ten-passenger boat that consumes no fuel could be just the thing for shuttling commuters across a bay or lake, or for three-hour tours. The amount of marine fuel expended on this type of trip is enormous, and gas-powered boats don’t run particularly clean.

The just-revealed N30 was described by Bhattacharyya as “software driven,” which at first seems an odd claim to make for a boat. But while most boats just float, hydrofoiling is a process that needs to be actively monitored to maintain stability.

“It is a combination of a boat and plane – there are lots of very complex parts, but that’s what it takes to build something that is step function more efficient,” she explained, comparing the boat to a fighter jet, which compensates for a natural instability with constant, software-defined adjustments. “The control system software is what stabilizes and flies it using sensor information and then driving the actuators. The user operates at a higher level (or outer loop), and drives it like a normal boat.”

Interior of the first Navier N30.

It may sound a little daunting, but practically every car does this now as well with traction control and all-wheel drive — you push on the gas, and the car figures out how much power to send to which wheels, adjusting on the fly if you hit water or ice. Some cars allow you to have a bit more control if you like it, and that’s the sport mode on the N30.

The plan is to incorporate more high-level software features, culminating (as all vehicles seem to these days) in a self-driving mode. For now the boat has automatic docking capability, which probably sounds nice to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this potentially finicky maneuver.

Illustration of a sample docking maneuver. Looks easy in theory, but…

“The N30 can autonomously direct the boat safely to a user-selected docking slip without any further input from the captain. The auto-docking system uses advanced computer vision and additional sensors to estimate the location of the boat with respect to the selected slip while compensating for external perturbations such as wind while also avoiding obstacles,” Bhattacharyya said.

There are three variants: open-top, hardtop, and cabin, which start at $375,000 and go up from there. It’s certainly a lot of money, but cabin cruisers this size aren’t cheap to begin with, and this is a state of the art electric vessel that basically flies. Sure, it’ll be a plaything for the very rich for the near future, but once the production methods and tech get a bit more established, you’ll start to see this type of craft trickle down to institutional uses (like water taxis) and perhaps even rentals. At any rate it’s nice to see a bit of innovation on the water, and I look forward to the days when the lakes are quieter and cleaner because of it.

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

Flux Marine revs up its electric outboard business with $15M A round

The race is certainly on in the electrification of boating… even if everyone is jockeying for position before the market materializes. Flux Marine is joining the likes of Pure and Zin in trying to convert some of our waterways’ gas-guzzling outboards to cleaner, quieter battery powered ones, and the company just raised $15.5 million ahead of a planned summer shipping date.

The conversion of the boating world to electrics is progressing slowly for lots of reasons, but it also seems as inevitable as the electrification of land vehicles. Boats are such big investments, and used so differently from cars, and physically are so much more power-hungry, that it’s not quite as simple to make the switch.

Flux has designed for, it claims, both convenience and efficiency, with a new take on the traditional rear-mounted outboard.

“We’ve taken a ground up design approach that places the electric motor above the waterline for scalability, but does not use any legacy combustion outboard parts,” CEO Ben Sorkin told TechCrunch. “Our lower unit was developed in-house to accommodate a belt drive, incorporate a closed-loop cooling system with active feedback, and reduce hydrodynamic drag.

“When looking at electric motors (electric machines), they are generally rated for a peak torque, determined by geometry and magnetics, and a continuous torque, which is determined by thermal management. Because a boat is subject to high drag forces from water, the key is in designing power electronics and a thermal management system to get the continuous torque as close as possible to peak torque,” Sorkin continued. “The end result is a lighter, more efficient total propulsion solution.”

A man drives a dinghy with an electric motor on the back.

Image Credits: Flux Marine

They also design the battery packs, which is of course a double-edged sword: they’ll be good, but you can’t just go out and grab a car battery to add another few miles to the range. (Actual range depends so much on the hull, weight and speed that it’s impossible to predict, but figure somewhere in the 40-70 mile range.)

The benefits of electric conversion in general are obvious enough that they scarcely need recounting: cleaner, quieter, greener, easier to maintain, and potentially better performance.

The downside is primarily cost: Flux aims to make its motors available for $4-12K including the battery pack, depending on whether you want a 15-horsepower equivalent (one person in a dinghy), 40 HP (a few people in an aluminum rowboat), or 70 HP (a few people in an aluminum rowboat, but going faster). A 100 HP equivalent one is planned as well.

Obviously that limits the number of people who can afford to go green, but boating is kind of an expensive hobby to begin with. If you want to get on the water for two bills, get a paddleboard — a hull and motor will run you a couple thousand bucks unless you buy the algae-encrusted one from that guy down the dock.

Pre-orders were opened last year and Sorkin said the company is on track to deliver its first motors this summer, hopefully in time for boating season. Lead times should decrease as they scale up over the next year, he added. In-person demos will be available in Rhode Island (where the company is based, and just got a fat tax credit) and Connecticut.

The $15.5M A round was led by Ocean Zero, with participation from Boost VC, Winklevoss Capital, and previous early investors.

FleetZero looks to capsize the shipping world with electric vessels serving forgotten ports

We’ve been shipping things across the oceans for centuries, and the world’s supply chains increasingly rely on diesel-powered megaships big enough to block entire channels by themselves. How do you decarbonize this monolithic industry? FleetZero thinks it can with electric vessels making short hops all the way around the Pacific, while relying on smaller ports and a clever battery-sharing scheme.

This problem is a serious one for anyone looking at emissions and impact on the climate and oceans, as these huge ships carry a large proportion of the world’s cargo and emit on the order of a billion tons of carbon per year. There’s a lot of opportunity here, but like other legacy industries — and indeed the ships themselves — it can be difficult to overcome inertia.

Steven Henderson and Mike Carter grew up in and around the shipping world and, as engineers, they understand the immense forces and challenges at play for anyone looking to change how the industry works. Electrifying a consumer vehicle is a cakewalk compared with converting a thousand-foot ship with an engine the size of a building. And even if you manage to do it, how are you going to recharge — run out a dozen extension cords to the base of a crane every hundred miles?

It’s a conglomeration of serious problems on both the engineering and logistical sides, and the industry has been paralyzed by the assumption that moving away from the dirty traditional methods would be both complex and costly. With margins already being eaten into by a variety of things (including, now, skyrocketing gas costs), can they really afford to take on the expense of shifting to more sustainable propulsion? An increase in costs, unwelcome even to successful shippers, could put smaller and less wealthy regions and companies out of the game entirely.

Fortunately, FleetZero believes that its solution will not only be cleaner, but cheaper to operate. The reasons for this start with the surprising (to lubbers) fact that transoceanic shipping doesn’t necessarily just go “straight” across the ocean; from Eastern Asia to West Coast ports, it’s almost as direct (and potentially less risky) to follow the coast much of the way. It looks much longer but due to the curvature of the Earth it’s actually not — and you have the benefit of being close to land to resupply or make deliveries on the way.

If you don’t have to travel several thousand miles uninterrupted, battery-powered shipping starts to make a lot more sense, and actually it’s just one of several puzzle pieces that fit together to form a potentially transformative picture.

Standard shipping units

“The weird economics of this is that the more ships you have, and the more stops you have, the lower your cost is. The key is to make the batteries swappable — this wouldn’t work for a plug-in vessel,” said Henderson.

It’s a bit counterintuitive — “I actually had to model this out on the floor with my daughter’s toy boats,” he added — but think about it this way. If a ship has enough batteries to go a thousand miles, then unless you’re going exactly that distance every time, you either have too much or too little capacity. And if you only have one large ship that has to swap out batteries at each end, you must keep twice the number of active batteries around — a set to swap out at each destination. But if you split the same capacity among several smaller ships and add more possible stops, suddenly it takes far less battery capacity to move the same amount of cargo.

This helpful diagram of a simple case may help make it clear:

Diagram showing how batteries can be efficiently shared between several small ships.

Image Credits: FleetZero

There are plenty more configurations in between, but the idea is clear enough: more and smaller ships use fewer batteries to move the same amount of cargo, assuming you have intermediate ports to make the swap network flexible. Plug-in vessels won’t work partly because they carry a lot of batteries (leading to under-utilization), but also because dockside charging may not be available.

Since batteries are the most expensive part of electrifying a ship, efficiency lowers the fleet buy-in cost by a huge amount. But of course this approach also requires charging infrastructure at ports that may not have it. FleetZero’s approach, which seems obvious in retrospect, is to make the ship’s batteries as portable as its cargo — by putting them in shipping containers.

CG render of a Fleetzero shipping container battery.

CG render of a Fleetzero Leviathan shipping container battery.

In case you’re thinking these will take up a lot of space, there are two answers to that. First, by removing the huge diesel engines and fuel and ballast tanks, you open up a ton of space on any given ship, sometimes doubling cargo capacity. And second, you only have to take as many as you need.

“We can put two batteries on a ship or two hundred, changing the range every time we load it out,” said Henderson. “You unload and load them just like any other cargo; it gets taken where it needs to go, a warehouse or a local utility.”

There, they can take advantage of off-peak electricity to charge these Leviathan batteries (as they call them) cheaply, or even be used as temporary power for ships to plug into so they don’t have to run on their own diesel generators.

“Electrifying docks is expensive — all these ports are 50, 100 years old,” Henderson continued. “It was actually pitched back to us that it’s cheaper to use our batteries to power other ships, that way you don’t have to build a substation at every dock.”

This feeds into the next puzzle piece, fitting this hypothetical network of ships to a real network of ports.

Ports of call

Carter explained that when they were spitballing the idea, it was clear that a direct shot across the ocean on a 10,000-container megaship would require a battery stack a couple miles tall — something of an engineering challenge — and while ships that hold only a handful of containers could do it, the logistics or a swarm of small vessels didn’t work out. “There’s a sweet spot for the size of ship you want to use, and it’s about a three to four thousand container unit ship,” he said. (The images in this article are of a proposed smaller test ship.)

“Because they’re on the smaller side — we’re still talking about 700 feet — you can access smaller ports,” Carter said. “There are all these ports, but no vessels that fit into them. Being able to use smaller vessels gives [logistics companies] so much more flexibility in the supply chain than they have today. If we look at places like Portland or Everett, these are ports not a lot of people know about, but there’s not as much congestion, and we can get cargo closer to the customers.”

CG renders of boats carrying shipping container batteries.

Image Credits: FleetZero

This also enables the idea of having frequent pit stops for ships where they can drop off depleted batteries and pick up just enough new ones to get them to their destination, like building a network of charging stations along highways. The local governments and port managers at these smaller locations are, perhaps needless to say, enthusiastic about the idea of bringing in new and regular business.

So: using portable, container-sized batteries makes medium-distance travel in medium-size ships practical, which activates smaller ports, which can act as charging stations without too much investment, reinforcing the network and driving the cost of fleet operations down — making battery-powered shipping competitive with and perhaps even cheaper than traditional gas-driven vessels.

It sounds promising, but it also sounds like a lot. Like any sensible startup, they’re starting small, proving the concept, and then be ready to scale within three years. While they’re just making their debut at Y Combinator’s Demo Day in the latest winter cohort, FleetZero has already raised $3.5M in a combination of angel and pre-seed rounds. Investors include Sam Altman, John Doerr, David Rubenstein, David Adelman, Flexport, Y Combinator, My Climate Journey, and Joris Poort.

The first task was to build the batteries, which they noted have a very different chemistry from most you’d find out there, largely due to the extreme danger posed by fires on these ships. “We needed a battery that didn’t self oxidize,” said Henderson, referring to the process that can make things like lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries serious risks. They ended up going with lithium iron phosphate, and building in both passive and active fire suppression measures.

That settled, their next task is to load a bunch on the back of a 300-foot ship and test out the whole shipping and swapping process start to finish. When that’s done and they’ve obtained the required regulatory approvals, they’ll begin converting vessels in 2025 — all after raising more money, presumably.

With luck and a lot of work, FleetZero could begin commercial operations that same year. Although it’s a lot to bite off, they have the advantage of having pretty much everyone rooting for them — electrifying shipping at this scale would benefit fleet owners, port operators, logistics companies, and last but not least the planet.

Candela’s hydrofoiling electric boats attract $24M investment in a bid for cleaner seas

Candela makes an unusual style of watercraft called a hydrofoiling boat, which glides above the sea on fins for a smoother, more efficient ride — doubly unusual, in fact, in that it is electrically propelled. The company has raised $24M to accelerate production of its existing small craft and a larger commercial one, in pursuit of cleaner and generally more future-proof waters.

The principle on which these boats work is actually fairly easy to understand. As a boat moves through the water, it tends to propel itself upwards and out as well as forward, and in a traditional watercraft — especially in choppy seas — this leads to the boat bouncing up and down on the water as it goes.

Hydrofoiling watercraft rise up too, but unlike a normal keeled boat the craft has a set of strong, bladelike fins attached to the powertrain and a horizontal fin below. At cruising speed the boat rises up on these fins so that they are the only things under the water, reducing drag and chop considerably and correspondingly increasing the efficiency of the engine.

Of course there are consequences to having your boat standing on its fins like that, not least of which is it looks a little strange (boaters are very conscious of these things). But practically speaking the main issue is probably that turning tends to… well, flop the boat over on its side due to the abnormally high center of gravity. Fortunately this potentially dangerous tendency is handled preemptively in Candela boats.

CG image of a Candela P-8 on the water.

“When you turn left in a Candela, it will lean left, and you will be pushed down in your seat, not to the side as in a planing boat. This coordinated turn is performed by the on board software, which regulates the angle of attack of the foil 100 times per second. So the foil moves constantly, in real-time, to balance the boat,” explained a company representative in response to my question. Although he compared it to a fighter jet, it might be easier to think of an all wheel drive system constantly monitoring for slip and anticipating such factors during a car’s turns.

Solving this problem makes hydrofoiling craft a viable alternative to a traditional hull, and that in turn solves one of the problems inherent to electric watercraft: low range. Watercraft face incredible resistance from the medium through which they travel, and at speed even the best batteries out there will run out much sooner than a gas tank.

Painstakingly designing the entire boat around the engine and shaving every gram off the weight, as Zin Boats does, is one approach to making those battery packs last, but if you can increase efficiency by half with something like hydrofoiling, you outrange any other boat in the same class almost without trying.

These boats do actually exist, though only a handful of them at present. Candela started out with the prototype C-7 speedboat, and made several upgrades with the larger C-8, currently in pre-production with the first boat about 80 percent done and delivery of the first run scheduled for spring. Before you get out your piggy bank, let’s be clear here: this craft is aimed squarely at the ultra-rich, with a €290,000 price tag before you start adding options like a hard top.

But while the company does hope to sell as many of these as possible to the Monaco and Dubai crowd, the bigger opportunity may be in public transport, of all things. Ferries are crucial infrastructure to cities around the world, but are often old, diesel-powered things that pollute the air and water around them. Candela is aiming at replacing those with its 30-passenger P-30.

3D model of Candela's P-30 passenger boat.

Image Credits: Candela

The company plans to debut the P-30 in Stockholm in 2023, where they hope it will operate for 40 percent cheaper, get around faster, quieter, and without making waves. They even plan to make it autonomous at some point, though we’ll address that ambition when it’s actually being attempted. With a predicted 60 mile range per charge, the P-30 should be able to make multiple trips without stopping and plug in to a fast charger at terminals without too much disruption.

Replacing commercial ferry and water taxi fleets with clean-running alternatives could be a huge step towards improving local water quality and cutting down on municipal contributions to pollution. Many coastal and bay cities could use something like this and may be willing to pay a premium to be recouped in lower running costs and general goodwill.

The $24M round was led by EQT Ventures, with participation from TED curator Chris Anderson. The money will be used to expand the R&D team and scale up production with automated tools.

“We’ve shown that our hydrofoil tech is the key to make electric boats commercially viable. We’re seeing boundless demand for the Candela C-8, as well as huge interest in our commercial vessels,” said Candela CEO Gustav Hasselskog in a press release. “The investment from EQT Ventures will allow us to double down on our mission to speed up the transition to fossil fuel-free lakes and oceans. It took us four years to develop the technology and two more years to master it. Now we are ready to scale up fast.”

It’s all still toys for the filthy rich but at one point so were electric cars. A few more years and electric boats may be as affordable as traditional ones — which is to say, not very, but considerably less than a house. If it ends up helping keep our waterways, lakes and oceans cleaner, though, I’m all for it.

Arc hooks another $30M in investment as EV interest spills over into electric boats

Arc is not even a year old and the electric boat startup has attracted investment from top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, entertainment industry big wigs and now a $30 million raise led by an early Tesla executive who led the automaker’s early manufacturing efforts.

The $30 million Series A was led by Greg Reichow, the former Tesla executive who is now a partner at Eclipse Ventures. Existing investors — Andreessen Horowitz, Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital and Ramtin Naimi’s Abstract Ventures also joined. Reichow will also join Arc’s board, the startup said in its Tuesday announcement. To date, Arc has raised $37 million, including earlier investment from the funds of Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Combs Enterprises.

The influx of capital and heavy hitting backers for the young company reflects broadening interest in electrification beyond a vehicle with two or four wheels — a sector that has been flooded with multimillion-dollar private funding raises as well as eye-popping debuts on public exchanges. (Earlier this week, GM announced it had taken a 25% stake in electric boat company Pure Watercraft.)

It’s also, of course, a validation of Arc’s particular business, which is to electrify everything on the water, starting with a limited-edition $300,000 boat.

Mitch Lee, who is CEO, and former SpaceX engineer Ryan Cook co-founded Arc with a plan to develop and sell electric watercraft at various price points and use cases. They started by focusing on the design and development of a purpose-built hull and purpose-built battery packs. Its first boat is the Arc One, a 24-foot aluminum boat that produces 475 horsepower and can run between 3 to 5 hours on a single charge. Arc will produce fewer than 25 Arc One boats.

Arc has plans that expand beyond building and selling a couple of dozen high-priced boats. But at least in the near term, Arc is focused on delivering the Arc One, the company said.

GM acquires 25% stake in electric boat company Pure Watercraft

General Motors has taken a 25% stake in Seattle-based electric boating company Pure Watercraft. GM’s move reflects a broadening interest in all things EV, including boats and other vehicles, and comes as part of the automaker’s commitment to invest $35 billion in electric and autonomous technology through 2025.

Pure Watercraft makes all-electric outboard motor systems, which it calls Pure Outboard, that can be used as a drop-in replacement for boats that would use a 25 to 50 horsepower gas-powered motor. The company has also partnered with major boat manufacturers to sell complete electric boats, including a pontoon barge, fishing boat and two rigid inflatable boats.

Pure Watercraft says its electric systems require zero maintenance compared to gas engines, in addition to eliminating fossil fuel pollution. The range is also likely to suit a pretty wide range of consumer use cases — the company notes on its website that Pure Outboard could support a nearly four-hour, 20-mile fishing trip with 15% charge to spare.

The company raised a $23 million Series A led by L37 last September to spin up production, nine years after the company was founded by CEO Andy Rebele. With this latest investment from GM, the two companies will co-develop and commercialize battery technology, “integrating GM technology into a variety of applications,” the automaker said in a statement.

This is just the latest signal that electric technologies are starting to move far beyond road vehicles or even aircraft, to transportation and mobility formats that have continued to be dominated by conventional gas propulsion. Ten-month-old electric watercraft startup Arc has raised $7 million in total funding, including bringing on several new investors last month. Seattle startup Zin Boats is also developing an electric speedboat.

It’s also a noteworthy move for GM, which is already exploring ways to use its technology in other mobility industries, like rail and aerospace. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Wabtec to develop electric freight locomotives using hydrogen fuel and batteries. GM also announced a partnership with Liebherr-Aerospace to jointly develop a hydrogen fuel cell demonstration system for aircraft.

Will Smith, Kevin Durant and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs invest in electric boat startup Arc

Arc, a startup that launched 10 months ago with ambitions to electrify everything on the water, starting with a limited-edition $300,000 boat, has captured the attention and capital of some of the entertainment industry’s biggest stars. The startup, which closed a seed round in February led by VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, has brought on several new investors, including funds from Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Combs Enterprises.

The new investment, which co-founder and CEO Mitch Lee describes as a strategic round, pushes Arc’s total funding past $7 million. Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital and Ramtin Nami’s Abstract Ventures invested in Arc’s seed round.

“All of these people, in addition to just being world class at what they do, have a ton of experience building brands and marketing products, and generally cultivating a community,” Lee told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

In short, Combs, Durant and Smith have a sphere of influence that taps into the market that Arc is hoping to reach. The upper luxury segment, in which that first $300,000 boat sits, is not Arc’s end game, Lee explained.

Lee and former SpaceX engineer Ryan Cook co-founded Arc with a plan to develop and sell electric watercraft at various price points and use cases. The company of more than 10 people — many with long stints at SpaceX — started with the hull, Lee explained.

Even though electric boats are quieter, quicker, more reliable and less expensive to maintain, they have not scaled because of three challenges, Lee said. Historically, there hasn’t been a supply chain for batteries needed for boats, the right high-voltage electrical systems and a hull designed to accommodate the weight and volume needed for large battery packs, according to Lee.

“When we approached this we said, we are going to start with a purpose-built hull and purpose-built battery packs that are laid out in a way that makes sense if you were to just start from scratch,” Lee said, noting that the engineering talent from SpaceX has been key to developing the hull and high-voltage electrical system needed.

The company now has a working alpha prototype called the Arc One, a 24-foot aluminum boat that produces 475 horsepower and can run between 3 to 5 hours on a single charge. Arc will produce fewer than 25 Arc One boats.

The Arc One is not aesthetically finished, according to Lee, who noted the attention has been on designing the hull, electrical system and battery packs. But the boat does work; the team recently took it waterskiing. Serial production of the Arc One is expected to begin next month, with the first deliveries to customers occurring early next year.

Arc’s plan is to use the funds from investors to scale its production and develop boats than can be price competitive with gas-powered ones — a strategy employed by Tesla.

“We are not planning to make very many of these, but it sets the tone for what an electric boat can be in this market and it creates a new anchor for us — pun intended,” Lee said. From there, Arc hopes to introduce and start selling a new boat by the end of 2022 that will be directly targeted at consumers in the mass watersports market. While Arc hasn’t set pricing for its next boat, it would need to be around $150,000 to $200,000 to compete with its gas-powered brethren.

The timing of that next boat will depend on the timing and amount of additional capital Arc ends up raising, Lee shared. For now, the company hopes its first boat will charge up demand for its future electric products.

Pure Watercraft ramps up its electric outboard motors with a $23M series A

Electric power only started making sense for land vehicles about ten years ago, but now the technology is ready to make the jump into the water. Pure Watercraft hopes that its electric outboard motor can replace a normal gas one for most boating needs under 50 HP — and it just raised $23.4M to hit the throttle.

Pure’s outboard works much like a traditional one, but runs on a suitcase-sized battery pack and is, of course, almost silent except for the sound of the turbulence. It’s pretty much a drop-in replacement for an outboard you’d use on a 10-20 foot boat meant for fishing or puttering around the lake, though the price tag looks a little different.

Founder and CEO Andy Rebele started the company in 2011, and it turns out they had shown up a bit early to the party. “The Model S had not yet been released; the plan of making boats electric was not really fundable,” he told me.

Rebele kept the company going with his own money and a bit of low-key funding in 2016, though he admits now that it was something of a leap of faith.

“You have to bet that this small market will become a big market,” he said. “We developed our entire battery pack architecture, and it took — it’s obvious at this point — millions of dollars to get where we are. But our investors are buying into a leader in the electrification of an entirely new sector of transportation that hasn’t gotten the same attention as cars and trucks.”

A boat with an electric outboard motor cruising on a lake.

Image Credits: Pure Watercraft

They haven’t been wasting time. Pure claims an energy density — how much power is packed into every kilogram — of 166 watt-hours per kilogram, meeting industry leader Tesla and beating plenty of other automotive battery makers. Users can easily add on a second pack or swap in a fresh one. The cells themselves are sourced from Panasonic, like Tesla’s and many others are, but assembling them into an efficient, robust, and in this case waterproof pack is something a company can still do better than its competition.

Having plenty of power is crucial for boats, since they use up so much of it to fight against the constant resistance of the water. The amount of power it takes to go a kilometer in a car is a fraction of what it takes to do so in a boat. Even boats designed for electric from the ground up, like those from Zin, face fundamental limits on their capabilities simply because of physics.

Rebele is aiming for the allure of simplicity. “The most popular outboard motor in the world is 40 horsepower,” he pointed out, and a replacement for that type of motor is exactly what Pure makes. “The mistake car companies made was saying, here’s the electric car market; it’s small, we tried it,” he said. Then Tesla came along with a great car that just happened to be electric.

It’s the same with boating, he suggested — sure, there are lots of different kinds of boats, and motors, and hull materials, and so on. But if Pure offers a motor that’s just as good or better than what powers a huge number of small boats, and just happens to be electric, it starts to sell itself.

Pure Watercraft's battery box.

Image Credits: Pure Watercraft

“We can’t count on people picking our product to save the world,” Rebele said. “The tipping point comes when you have a critical mass of people for whom a good selfish choice is to go electric.”

The benefits, after all, are easy to enumerate: It’s silent, which is great for fishing or social boating; It fills up for a buck or two at any outlet; It’s extremely low maintenance, having vastly fewer parts than a tiny gas engine; And of course it doesn’t spew fumes and particulates into the water and air like most of the depressingly dirty motors currently in use.

The only real advantage left to gas is initial cost and range. If you’re willing to spend some money for a better product, then cost isn’t as much of an issue. And if like most boaters you’re only going to ever go a few miles per trip, the range isn’t an issue. If you’re fishing or just cruising around a lake, it’ll last you all day. The people for whom electric isn’t an option will quickly realize that, while the others will find it increasingly hard to resist the idea.

Pure Watercraft's electric outboard motor lifted out of the water

Image Credits: Pure Watercraft

There’s still a good amount of sticker shock. A good new outboard in the 20-50 HP range runs a few thousand dollars to start, and marine gas costs add up quick; the Pure motor comes in a combo deal with the charger system and one battery pack for $16,500 (additional packs cost about $8,000). They’re working with some boat manufacturers to do complete boat deals for 30 grand or less, but it’s still firmly in the high end for the “outboard on a 2-6 person boat” crowd.

The $23.4 million A round, led by L37 and a number of individuals (including some Amazon execs and , is aimed squarely at spinning up production. After implementing the changes to the “beta” product they’ve been testing with, the first thousand Pure motors will be built in Seattle, where the company is based. The company has essentially finished R&D, so there’s little question of putting off customers for a few years while the product is engineered — and Rebele said they had no intent to build another for now.

“We make this product, at this power level, and that’s all,” he said. The company’s focus makes for good engineering and, hopefully, good margins. Pure should be shipping its motors in time for the 2021 boating season.