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Electric Dreams, or Reality?

Updated: Jun 2

Developing Electric Vessels: An Introduction


Client enquiries for electric superyacht tenders and stand-alone dayboats are increasing as technology advances and existing electric or hybrid projects are delivered.


This guide outlines some key considerations for those interested in researching an electrification project, drawing from our experience in project coordination, powertrain validation and overseeing the construction of electric boats.


Summary


The technology for electric boats is available and has been successfully deployed in existing projects. While it's feasible to develop and operate an electric tender or dayboat today, it is crucial not to underestimate the importance of conducting thorough due diligence, adopting an innovation mindset and ensuring seamless integration of systems. This applies equally onboard the boat itself and also the mothership where superyacht tender operations are envisaged.


Key Considerations


1. Early Definition of Brief and Mission Profile

   - Clearly prioritise range and cruising requirements as part of compiling the overall client brief. This is critical to influence the design and naval architecture from a performance perspective and to ensure that the client requirements are met effectively.


2. Expert Oversight

   - Appoint a representative with electrification integration experience to oversee the process and coordinate among various stakeholders. This ensures smooth communication and effective management throughout the project.


3. Transparency and Expectation Management

   - Maintain transparency with all stakeholders and manage expectations, especially regarding vessel range and charging requirements. Innovation-driven projects require buy-in and a collaborative mindset from everyone involved, including the end-user client, yacht crew, project managers, powertrain supplier and boatbuilder for the duration of the project and into ownership.


4. Engineering and Safety Standards

   - Electric boats typically operate on high voltages (400V to 800V). Ensuring a high level of engineering and installation quality is critical for safety and functionality. Likewise with reference to launch & recovery, storage, charging and regulatory compliance.


5. Software and System Integration

   - Electric powertrains rely on 'black box' software for communication between various system components from different suppliers. Where available, prioritise product testing and obtain user feedback from reference vessels and existing customers to validate reliability and performance.


6. Maintenance and Servicing

   - Given the relative novelty and complexity of electric powertrains, maintenance and servicing are assumed to require specialist knowledge. Ideally this should be managed by the powertrain supplier with a robust and client-focused lifecycle support plan in place.


7. Due Diligence

   - Conduct thorough due diligence beyond the marketing and sales pitch. Evaluate the day-to-day engineering, project management and after-sales support teams. Likewise ongoing product development and company growth, as well as senior management, investor alignment and funding status.


8. Market Dynamics

   - The marine sector has many early-stage electrification companies still striving for product/market fit, differentiation and scalability. Expect some market shifts, consolidation and potential business failures. Traditional fossil fuel engine manufacturers have only recently entered the electric market through acquisitions or new product announcements. This trend is worth monitoring as it could influence the choice of supplier, market stability and innovation.


9. Design and Naval Architecture

   - Attempting to integrate an electric powertrain within an existing hull design is potentially a false economy. This approach could negatively impact the vessel’s naval architecture, performance and structure due to the weight and size of electric powertrain components.


10. Cost Considerations

    - It is important to recognise that the upfront capital costs are likely to be higher than conventional fossil fuel propulsion. This includes the cost of the equipment itself plus the associated design, naval architecture and engineering loops to integrate an electric powertrain.


Conclusion


The advancement of electric powertrain technology can offer a more sustainable and innovative option for clients as a route to the decarbonisation of marine propulsion. However, successful integration and operation requires careful planning, expert oversight and a commitment to thorough due diligence on the client side.


Additionally, powertrain suppliers and boat builders must deliver a viable product and maintain a robust business model that includes comprehensive worldwide support and lifecycle management. All parties should adopt an open and collaborative approach to ensure the successful implementation and ongoing operation of electric tenders and dayboats.



The SPARK team will be attending the upcoming Electric & Hybrid Marine Expo held in Amsterdam June 18, 19, 20.


Please get in touch to discuss vessel electrification projects and to arrange a meeting.





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