The race to electrify boats is undoubtedly on… even if everyone is jockeying for position before the market emerges. Flux Marine has funded $15.5 million ahead of a scheduled summer shipment date, joining companies like Pure and Zin in the effort to convert some of our waterways’ gas-guzzling outboards to cleaner, quieter battery-powered ones. For a variety of reasons, the conversion of the boating industry to electrics is sluggish, but it appears to be as inevitable as the electrification of land vehicles. Boats are such large investments and are utilized so differently than automobiles, as well as being physically more power-hungry, that making the conversion is not as straightforward.
With a unique twist on the typical rear-mounted outboard, Flux claims to have developed for both ease and efficiency. CEO Ben Sorkin told TechCrunch, “We’ve chosen a ground-up design approach that positions the electric motor above the waterline for scalability, but does not employ any outdated combustion outboard elements.” “To accommodate a belt-drive, implement a closed-loop cooling system with active feedback, and decrease hydrodynamic drag, our bottom unit was designed in-house.”
“When it comes to electric motors (electric machines), they’re usually rated for a peak torque dictated by geometry and magnetics, as well as a constant torque determined by thermal management. Because a boat is subjected to significant drag forces from the water, Sorkin noted, “the trick is in building power electronics and a thermal management system to obtain the continuous torque as near to peak torque as feasible.”
“The final result is a comprehensive propulsion solution that is lighter and more efficient.” They also design the battery packs, which is a double-edged sword: they’ll be fantastic, but you won’t be able to just pick up a vehicle battery to extend the range by a few miles. (The exact range varies so much depending on the hull, weight, and speed that it’s hard to say, but expect it to be in the 40-70 mile range.)
The advantages of electric conversion are so evident that they don’t need to be said again: cleaner, quieter, greener, easier to maintain, and perhaps higher performance. Flux plans to sell its motors for $4,000 to $12,000, 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) (a few people in an aluminum rowboat, but going faster). A 100-horsepower version is also in the works.
Obviously, this reduces the amount of individuals who can afford to go green, but boating is already a costly sport. Get a paddleboard for two bills if you want to get on the water – a hull and motor will set you back a couple of thousand dollars until you get the algae-encrusted one from the person down the pier. Preorders began last year, and Sorkin said the business expects to deliver the first engines this summer, in time for boating season.
He noted that as they expand production over the next year, lead times should drop. In-person demos will be offered in Rhode Island and Connecticut (where the firm is based and recently received a large tax credit). The $15.5 million is a significant sum. Ocean Zero led a round, which included Boost VC, Winklevoss Capital, and other early investors.