Only a few years ago, Tesla was proving for the first time that electric engines were the future of automobiles. This year, Vision Marine proved that the future of boating includes electric engines, too.
Vision Marine Technologies (NASDAQ:VMAR) showed up in August 2021 at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, the largest unsanctioned boat race in the country, with plans to make a splash. With a hundred thousand boaters watching by water and by land, and countless more streaming the video broadcast across the world, Vision knew the Shootout was a perfect place to show off their cutting-edge tech and new visions of power. Their goal? Draw the attention of boat manufacturers, as well as future customers.
Xavier Montagne, Chief Technology Officer at the Canadian electric engine developer, says the future of boat power is electric, and the future is coming sooner than you think.
The Shootout was Vision’s chance to demonstrate and debut their E-Motion 180E on their signature boat model the Bruce 22, a sleek-looking v-bottom with an interesting outboard engine. Beneath the motor’s chic-design cover is a propulsion system that runs on a battery and propelled the Bruce 22 to surprisingly fast speeds. That motor, the E-Motion 180E, is Vision Marine Technologies’ core product and the world’s most powerful electric outboard.
And while the Bruce 22 may have been most boaters’ first introduction to Vision’s tech, they’ve actually been building electric boat engines for more than a quarter-century: since 1995. Those years of innovation and development are paying off: with the E-Motion 180E on the back, the Bruce 22—a boat not really even built for speed—ran a blistering 49 mph at the Shootout.
Montagne says Vision’s journey to Lake of the Ozarks tested the boat in a new way: the warmer waters of Lake of the Ozarks (compared to those of Montreal, Canada) helped prove the boat’s cooling capacity. Among the many challenges of developing an electric engine, the lithium battery may present the greatest. In addition to being heavy, lithium batteries get very hot. It’s the reason your iPhone feels warm when you’ve been streaming video for awhile. Montagne said the engine held up well in the Lake’s 80-degree waters.
Developing and marketing an electric engine poses another difficulty: translating the fundamentally different way electric engines work, so the average boat buyer can understand it. And so a boat can use it. The reality is: everything about an electric boat’s propulsion system is specially built for the marine industry.
The development to figure out this novel approach necessitated an enormous capital investment for initial development, Montagne explains, and Vision’s presence on the Nasdaq (NASDAQ:VMAR) gives them access to the funds they need to make it go, having raised gross proceeds of $27.6M at their IPO.
Ready to be seen by the world, the 3/4-mile Shootout race course gave Vision the chance to show off the speed these motors can put forward. The next step: getting manufacturers’ on board. Vision recently drew significant interest from manufacturers at IBEX 2021 in Miami, at the end of September, and that’s why the company will be at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, Oct. 27–31, meeting future customers and conducting sea trials with the E-Motion 180E to show boat-builders what this thing can do.
The Future Moves Fast
Only three years ago, in 2018, the first electric boat came to the Shootout. Driver Randy Vance piloted Calypso to a speed of 25 mph, in a run that was meant to give boaters a glimpse of the future. Watching Calypso putter down the Shootout race course was interesting, and drew plenty of chuckles from boaters accustomed to watching race boats hit the triple digits. But it was a sign of things to come.
But just three years later, electric boats are hitting two and three times the speed of Calypso’s Shootout run, and fans are noticing. At the 2021 Shootout, three electric boats ran past an enormous, miles-long flotilla of boaters watching from the water, and countless thousands watching from home. Driver Patrick Bobby the COO of Vision Marine Technologies, took the Bruce 22 down the track four times, reaching 49 mph on its final run.
This was Montagne’s first time to visit Lake of the Ozarks. “It’s wild!” he said, laughing. But he loved it. And the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is part of Vision’s strategy to put electric boats on the map. They came all the way from Montreal, Montagne says, not because they expected to be the fastest boat on the race course (although they were the fastest in their category). They expected to win potential customers.
The Shootout helped Vision push their Electric Outboard Motor to its limit and showcase the first 180 HP Electric Outboard Engine that will be available on the market. Making a prototype electric engine is one thing; bringing it to market is where the rubber meets the road… or where the propeller meets the water.
Vision is already working with major boat manufacturers — Montagne won’t say who — to bring electric boats to the consumer market. When will we look around at a dock and see electric boats sprinkled among the traditional fuel-powered ones? “Next year,” Montagne says with a smile. He hints the first lines could be coming to dealerships by 2022.