Candela’s hydrofoil electric boats attract $24 million investment in bid for cleaner seas – TechCrunch
Candela makes an unusual style of personal watercraft called a hydrofoil, which glides over the sea on fins for a smoother, more efficient ride – doubly unusual, in fact, in that it’s electrically powered. The company has raised $24 million to ramp up production of its existing small craft and a larger commercial craft, in pursuit of cleaner and generally more sustainable waters.
The principle of operation of these boats is actually quite easy to understand. As a boat moves through the water it tends to propel itself up and out as well as forward, and in a traditional craft – especially in rough seas – this leads to the boat bouncing on the water as you go.
Hydrofoil watercraft also stand up, but unlike a normal keelboat, the craft has a set of strong blade-like fins attached to the powertrain and a horizontal fin below. At cruising speed, the boat rises on these fins so that they are the only things underwater, greatly reducing drag and chop and increasing engine efficiency.
Of course, there are consequences to your boat standing on its fins like that, not least because it looks a bit strange (boaters are very aware of these things). But in practice, the main problem is probably that turns tend to… well, tip the boat sideways due to the abnormally high center of gravity. Fortunately, this potentially dangerous tendency is managed preventively in Candela boats.
“When you turn left in a Candela, it will lean left and you will be pushed down into your seat, not sideways like in a planing boat. This coordinated turn is done by the on-board software, which regulates the angle of attack of the foil 100 times per second. So the foil is constantly moving, in real time, to balance the boat,” a company representative explained to me in response to my question. compared to a fighter jet, it might be easier to think of an all-wheel-drive system that constantly monitors wheelspin and anticipates those factors during a car’s turns.
Solving this problem makes the hydrofoil a viable alternative to a traditional hull, which in turn solves one of the inherent problems of electric watercraft: poor range. Personal watercraft face incredible resistance from the medium in which they travel, and at high speeds even the best batteries on the market will run out much sooner than a tank of gas.
Carefully designing the whole boat around the motor and reducing every gram of weight, as Zin Boats does, is one approach to making these batteries last, but if you can cut the efficiency in half with something like the hydrofoil, you outrun any other boat in the same class almost without trying.
These boats actually exist, although there are only a handful at present. Candela started with the prototype C-7 outboard and made several upgrades with the larger C-8, currently in pre-production with the first boat approximately 80% complete and delivery of the first run scheduled for the spring. Before you pull out your piggy bank, let’s be clear here: this craft is aimed squarely at the ultra-rich, with a price tag of €290,000 before you start adding options like a hardtop.
But while the company hopes to sell as many as it can to the crowds of Monaco and Dubai, the biggest opportunity could be in public transport, of all things. Ferries are crucial infrastructure for cities around the world, but they are often old diesel-powered devices that pollute the air and water around them. Candela aims to replace them with its 30-passenger P-30.
The company plans to launch the P-30 in Stockholm in 2023, where it hopes it will run 40% cheaper, move faster, quieter and without making waves. They even plan to make it standalone at some point, though we’ll get to that ambition when it’s actually attempted. With an expected range of 60 miles per charge, the P-30 should be able to take multiple trips without stopping and plug into a fast charger at the terminals without too much disruption.
Replacing commercial ferry and water taxi fleets with clean alternatives could be a big step towards improving local water quality and reducing municipal contributions to pollution. Many coastal and bay towns could use something like this and might be willing to pay a premium to be clawed back in lower running costs and general goodwill.
The $24 million round was led by EQT Ventures, with participation from TED curator Chris Anderson. The money will be used to expand the R&D team and increase production with automated tools.
“We have shown that our hydrofoil technology is the key to making electric boats commercially viable. We are seeing unlimited demand for the Candela C-8, as well as tremendous interest in our commercial vessels,” Candela CEO Gustav Hasselskog said in a press release. “The investment from EQT Ventures will allow us to double down on our mission to accelerate the transition to fossil fuel-free lakes and oceans. It took us four years to develop the technology and two more years to master it. Now, we are ready to evolve rapidly.
They’re still toys for the rich, but at one point so were electric cars. A few more years and electric boats may be as affordable as traditional ones, that is, not very, but significantly less than a house. If it ends up helping to keep our waterways, lakes, and oceans cleaner, I’m all for it.