Water and electricity don’t mix. In fact, they can mix very well which can cause problems for people. The idea of an electric boat might seem risky. Arc, a California-based startup, is trying to change that perception. It will start with a 24-foot limited edition watersports boat for around $300,000.
This is a huge amount of money. Arc, which is in stealth mode right now, boasts a few SpaceX expats and is backed Silicon Valley powerhouse firm Andreessen Horowitz. Once it produces and sells boats, it plans to lower its price, just as Tesla did with electric passenger cars. The Roadster was followed by the Model S, X and then the Model 3 & Y.
Electric boats are much more reliable than traditional boats. This means that there is less need to maintain them, which can be one of the most frustrating aspects of boat ownership. Furthermore, electricity is often cheaper than marina fuel, so trickle charging your boat from home makes more sense than using a car to do it. Although Arc’s first boat might not be as powerful as a gasoline-powered boat, it is still a step closer to the ultimate goal. Arc CEO Mitch Lee believes that it is possible.
Lee told The Verge that they are going up-market and are trying to get down as fast as possible. He also said that they are following their playbook almost exactly. Lee explains that the limited sales of the Arc One boat for $300,000 will finance R&D to create a cheaper version that could be sold “in the thousands”.
While following Tesla’s lead, Arc can also use electric propulsion technology to disrupt the boating industry. This makes it easy for Lee to give Arc the “Tesla For Boats” moniker. Lee said that Arc would not be the first and it wouldn’t the last. However, he prefers to leave that decision up the media and the general public.
He says, “From a branding perspective, why do I hesitate? Everyone is going to call itself the ‘Tesla of boats’.” “It matters how well you execute against that playbook.”
Although the first boat Arc built is quite simple, it’s a remarkable feat of engineering. Lee says Arc already has one prototype. Lee claims that the boat will be equipped with a 200kWh, 800-volt battery pack, which is roughly twice as powerful and voltage as Tesla’s top-tier pack, and an electric motor of at least 475 horses. The boat will reach a maximum speed of 40 mph and can run for approximately four hours. Lee estimates that this should provide enough power to cover a full day of boating.
Lee claims that the boat will create a wake behind itself, making it suitable for waterskiing and other wake sports. Lee states that this is rare in the emerging electric boat market. It takes a lot energy to move through water so other companies have tried to reduce the wake. A hydrofoil is being used by some to reduce drag and eliminate the wake.
This is why the battery pack will be extremely energy-dense. Lee says that power draw is proportional to the speed of water when you move through it. Lee says that if you want your boat to go 40 miles per hour, you will need a large battery. This extra energy will also help the boat “plane,” which is when it skims across water.
Lee says that boats are really good at floating. Although it sounds absurd, it is possible to build a boat that can carry a large load. The hard part is when you want to fly or move fast. This creates an exponential power draw because you are moving through something more viscous than air.
Arc is also building aluminum hulls as a key component of its design. Arc is breaking with convention, much like Ford did a decade ago when it adopted aluminum for its pickup trucks. The majority of boat hulls of this class are made from carbon fiber or another type of composite material. Lee claims aluminum will require less labor and be cheaper, but it will still be light enough to allow Arc to carry most of the weight.
Although the pack will be large, it will be distributed across the boat’s bottom and integrated into its hull structure. This will draw comparisons with Tesla, which is currently developing structural battery packs for future cars. Lee also stated that Arc will be pursuing vertical integration, much like Tesla. The startup has also designed its own enclosures and cooling systems for the battery packs. It is also developing the software. The startup plans to improve it via over-the air updates. Arc is procuring the cells and modules that make up the pack and the electric motor. Lee declined to identify the suppliers.
Arc has also hired outside consultants to assist with the 800-volt technology, as that’s a rare technology even in high-performance electric cars. (Porsche already has an 800-volt pack in its Taycan, while GM is developing 800-volt batteries for its Ultium-powered EVs. Lee warns that this doesn’t necessarily mean there are reasons to be concerned. High-voltage electrical systems are not uncommon on boats. However, they can power so-called hotel loads — which is basically all creature comforts that aren’t related to propulsion.
He says, “We are innovative in that this will be our powertrain — We’re using these high-voltage batteries for this specific usage.” “Our whole team is committed to making sure we do this safely and intelligently. We do some additional closeouts and use a rigorous testing process to ensure that this system is safe.
Lee believes that the huge theoretical upside of an electricboat will outweigh any concerns about its power source. Lee is so enthusiastic about the idea, he stated that he hopes to see Arc’s boats require no maintenance. Sound familiar?
“Boating can be amazing. He says that boat ownership is a terrible thing and that he wants to eliminate all of the negative aspects and increase the boating market. We can make a boat that is not only premium, but also lowers the burden of boat ownership, and increases the joy of being on the water. That’s what I believe is a major selling point for us. If you combine that with the macro trends of everything becoming electric, I believe that all of this sets us up to have the right product, in the right market, at the right time.