Up to now, hybrid and electric boats have been pipe dreams of the marine industry. Experienced engine nuts have even scoffed at them, and, until recently, you could count me in that group. But then, with two skiers and three riders on board, I enjoyed the early morning sun through more than 20 exhaust-free ski runs before retiring Correct Craft’s electric Nautique prototype to the dock for charging.
The Ski Nautique E looks like any gas-powered ski boat, sans the engine box. Wraparound seats hide lithium ion batteries, and a Plexiglas window reveals two coffee-can-size electric motors and a single transmission. A receptacle similar to a shore-power plug receives 110- or 220-volt juice to restore the batteries.
At the end of the session, the Ski Nautique E was plugged in for a $3 220-volt charge that would take 4½ hours — just enough time for lunch and for the muscles to recharge before starting the afternoon set.
Because electricity is always “on,” no additional emissions are required to give the batteries their $3 dose of power, and none are emitted while skiing or riding.
When I pressed the throttle down, the motors hummed almost imperceptibly, the sound concealed beneath that of rushing water and the melodic turbulence of the propeller. The boat’s wake and handling were just like those of a gas-powered rig, sans the rumble of a V-8 and the sound of its exhaust.
As Greg Meloon of Correct Craft says, “This concept boat is proof of feasibility and that it works.” However, there are still challenges.
First is the question of whether a 4½-hour charge is all that practical. “We think there will be charging stations at marinas that will bring 440- volt and stronger chargers to the task and bring the charge time down to as little as 15 minutes,” said Michel Soucy, an engineer for LTS Marine, which builds electric motors for marine use.
Second, and the biggest question at the moment, is cost. Experts, including Soucy, believe feasibility for the everyday skier is about five years away, although Soucy says engineers are working on pontoon boats that will be realistic and cost-effective in little more than a year.
As the industry moves ahead with battery power, new doors will continue to open for boaters and the pricing margins will shrink as technology improves. Soucy says that when the premium for electric boats equals the premium for electric cars, the time for acceptance will be at hand.