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What are Electric Boats; (Are They All the Same?)

Candela C 8 HardTop Electric Boat 1

Electric boats are watercraft powered by electricity, not gasoline or diesel. They use electric motors and batteries for propulsion and offer sustainable boating alternatives. They are gaining momentum as a clean, efficient alternative to traditional marine vessels.

This guide provides a concise exploration of what electric boats are, spotlighting their cost benefits, environmental advantages, and the practicalities of adopting them.


Electric boats have a rich history dating back to the 19th century when the River Thames boasted a fleet of rental electric boats, supported by a network of charging stations in the 1880s.

However, the rise of petrol and diesel vessels, capable of higher speeds and longer ranges, led to a decline in electric boat usage.

Despite this, electric crafts have carved a niche, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas where gasoline boats are prohibited by law. They offer quieter operation, are more cost-effective, and emit zero pollutants, contrasting sharply with traditional combustion engine boats.

To answer your question, no, electric boats are not all the same. But what exactly defines the current state of these boats in the modern world? Let’s explore further.

The Rise of Electric Boats

Today, electric boats are becoming popular again due to concerns about the environment and rising fuel prices. They’re quieter and offer a more enjoyable boating experience, appealing to both recreational and professional users.

This rise in popularity represents an electric revolution on water, driven by technological advancements and growing environmental awareness.

Whether it’s a carbon yacht or a small dinghy, electric boats are equipped with motors powered by batteries, showcasing the transformative power of electricity in boating.

Next, we’ll explore different types of electric boats and their unique features.

1. Tenders and Slow Cruisers

Electric boats often resemble historical vessels, with long, slender shapes ensuring efficiency at slower speeds and reducing the need for frequent recharging. Some models even incorporate solar panels, combining classic design with renewable energy.

With their streamlined hulls, these boats move smoothly through the water, leaving minimal wakes, especially at slower speeds. Traveling at approximately three knots, they can sustain a full day of coastal boating on a compact battery. Their straightforward hull structures also make electrification cost-effective. They utilize robust yet economical battery options like lead-acid, as weight considerations are less significant at lower speeds.

These boats are perfect for an eco-friendly boating experience. 

2. Electric Ferries

Electric ferries are a significant advancement in the maritime industry, providing a cleaner and more sustainable option compared to traditional ferries. These vessels use electric motors powered by batteries, solar panels, or hydrogen fuel cells, stored in a fuel tank. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, and noise levels, especially in sensitive coastal and harbor areas.

One of the main benefits of electric ferries is their significantly lower operating expenses compared to diesel-powered alternatives. Although the initial investment in electric propulsion technology may be higher, ferry operators can recover these costs over time through fuel and maintenance savings.

Furthermore, electric propulsion systems produce zero emissions during use, contributing to cleaner air and water quality in port cities and coastal communities. With ongoing advancements in battery energy density, electric ferries are becoming an increasingly viable and widespread solution for sustainable maritime transport.

3. Sailboats: Electric Motors Instead of Diesel Generators

Sailboats, traditionally equipped with diesel engines, are increasingly incorporating electric motors. While wind remains the primary power source, electric motors serve as silent and efficient backups during calm days or harbor maneuvers.

Additionally, a sizable battery bank for propulsion eliminates the need to run the boat motor as a diesel generator for onboard amenities like lights, refrigerators, and air conditioning. This is especially advantageous in harbors without shore power.

During sailing, a dragging, rotating propeller can recharge the batteries. While some sailors might be fine with an electric motor and batteries that offer just a few nautical miles of range for safely leaving the port and hoisting sails, the concept of sailing boats could see significant changes in the electric age. Looking forward, we expect more sailboats to switch to electric power.

4. The Solution: Electric Hydrofoil Boats

The introduction of electric hydrofoil boats by Candela in 2018 marked a significant advancement in electric marine technology. These state-of-the-art vessels seamlessly combine long-range capabilities with impressive speed, providing a smoother ride and an unmatched boating experience.

Utilizing hydrofoil technology, these boats achieve a remarkable feat: lifting above the water’s surface to minimize drag and maximize efficiency. This innovative design extends the range of electric boats and enhances their overall performance and sustainability.

Hydrofoils also help reduce the environmental impact of traditional hulls by eliminating large wakes typically generated by conventional vessels. This reduction in disruptive wake ensures the continued flourishing of species dependent on these habitats, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of marine environments.

Candela C-8 | 100% Electric Hydrofoil Craft

Environmental Advantages of an Electric Boat

Cleaner Air 

Electric boats operate emission-free, unlike conventional fuel boats. By eliminating harmful exhaust gases, they contribute to cleaner air quality, reducing the impact of air pollution on both human health and the environment.

Cleaner Water 

Without fuel combustion, electric boats release no pollutants directly into the water. This helps maintain water bodies’ cleanliness and purity, supporting aquatic ecosystems and preserving water quality for recreational activities and wildlife habitats.

Elimination of Pollutants from Exhaust 

Traditional combustion engines emit pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides through exhaust. Electric boats produce no exhaust emissions, eliminating harmful pollutants’ release into the atmosphere and waterways.

Reduced Risk of Oil and Fuel Spills 

Electric boats don’t require oil or fuel for propulsion, reducing the risk of spills. Without onboard fuel storage and transportation needs, they help mitigate environmental risks associated with accidental spills.

Environmental Advantages of Electric Boats

Advantages of Electric Motors

Silent Operation at Low Speeds 

Electric motors operate quietly, especially at low speeds, minimizing noise pollution and disturbances to marine life. This silent operation enhances the overall experience, allowing passengers to enjoy the tranquility of the water without disruptive engine noise.

Enhanced Enjoyment for Waterway Users 

The smooth and responsive acceleration of electric motors provides waterway users with a more enjoyable and comfortable ride. Without the noise and vibration associated with traditional boat motors, passengers can fully immerse themselves in the natural environment and appreciate its serenity.

Alignment with Environmental Goals 

Electric motors support global efforts to reduce carbon footprints and mitigate climate change effects. Transitioning to electric motors reduces greenhouse gas emissions, promoting global environmental responsibility and sustainability initiatives.

Candela C-8 in Turquoise Green Waters

Technological Innovations

Advancements in battery technology, electric motors, and renewable energy sources are driving the expansion and evolution of electric boats. Lithium-ion batteries have experienced a remarkable 300% improvement in energy density over the last two decades. This enhancement has significantly boosted range and battery power for electric boats. The increase in battery capacity has significantly bolstered the overall performance of these vessels.

Innovations in electric outboard motors are increasing power outputs and lifespans, showcasing the evolution of electric boat propulsion. The growth of electric boats is fueled by the integration of advanced electronics and AI-driven navigation systems, improving operational efficiency.

Efficient hull designs, which substantially reduce drag, are a key feature of recent electric boat models. These designs require less energy for propulsion, thereby enhancing environmental benefits.

Conversion Options: Retrofitting Existing Boats with Electric Motors

Boat owners can choose to upgrade their current vessels with electric motors using conversion kits that include electric drives, batteries, and control systems. The conversion process to electric can be straightforward, such as swapping out an old petrol outboard engine with a modern electric counterpart.

Whether it’s a simple outboard motor replacement or a complete overhaul of the boat’s propulsion system, converting a traditional boat into an electric one offers several benefits. These include environmental advantages and lower operating costs.

DIY Conversions 

For those who enjoy do-it-yourself projects, converting a boat to electric power can be a rewarding undertaking. It involves selecting the appropriate drive system that matches the owner’s specific goals and sailing or cruising preferences.

To select the right-sized motor and battery system for a DIY electric boat conversion, it’s essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the boat’s electrical power requirements. Securely installing the new electric system and properly balancing the weight of new batteries are crucial steps. They ensure the overall safety of the vessel during a DIY electric boat conversion.

Regulatory Landscape Surrounding Electric Boats

The regulatory landscape surrounding electric boats is complex and constantly changing. While some regions have established strong policies to encourage the use of electric propulsion in the maritime sector, others are still developing regulations. These regulations aim to address the unique challenges and opportunities posed by battery-powered boats. Key regulatory considerations include emissions standards, safety requirements, and infrastructure development.

For instance, in certain coastal areas, strict emissions regulations may restrict the operation of traditional combustion engines, leading boat manufacturers and operators to explore cleaner alternatives. Moreover, ensuring safety standards for these boats is crucial. This includes measures to prevent electrical hazards and compliance with existing maritime regulations. It’s essential for building consumer confidence and industry growth.

Furthermore, infrastructure development plays a crucial role in supporting the widespread adoption of electric boats. Governments and private entities are investing in charging infrastructure and harbor facilities to facilitate the transition to electric power.

As policymakers continue to prioritize sustainability and decarbonization efforts, the regulatory framework for electric boats is expected to evolve. This evolution will present both new opportunities and challenges for stakeholders in the marine industry.

Market Trends and Adoption Rates

The battery-powered boat market has grown significantly due to increasing environmental awareness, battery technology advancements, and government clean energy initiatives.

Industry reports indicate that the global electric boat market is set to expand rapidly, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 20% expected over the next decade.

The surge in demand originates from two key drivers: recreational boaters seeking eco-friendly options and commercial operators aiming to reduce operating costs and comply with emissions regulations.

Countries like Norway have implemented incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies to encourage the adoption of electric propulsion in the maritime sector.

However, in regions where traditional boating culture and infrastructure pose obstacles to change, adoption rates may be slower. Nonetheless, even in these areas, awareness of the benefits of electric boats is gradually increasing.

Charging Solutions and Infrastructure for Electric Boats

Charging an electric boat requires careful planning. A 10-kWh battery pack can typically be charged from 20% to 99% in about four hours using a 40A charger, or approximately 2.5 hours using a 65A charger for quicker turnaround between uses.

Marinas and smaller harbors often offer standard outlet charging, with some providing fast charging capabilities to accommodate different electric boat models.

The cost of a full charge for an electric boat varies depending on the location and prevailing kWh electricity rates, which should be factored into operating expenses.

With the growing demand for electric boats, marinas and harbors are adjusting their infrastructures to provide convenient and efficient charging solutions for these vessels.

Want to learn more about charging electric boats? Read our blog post here.

1. Marina Charging Stations

To accommodate the rising sales of electric boats and attract new customers, marinas are increasingly installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The presence of EV charging stations in marinas offers several advantages, including:

  • Attracting new market segments
  • Enhancing the marina’s sustainable brand image 
  • Providing opportunities for additional services during the extended dwell time of EV owners.

This development benefits both boat owners and marinas. As electric boating gains popularity, marinas with EV charging stations are poised to attract new customers, cementing their importance in the future of boating.

Candela at a marina charging station
Candela at a marina charging station

2. Solar Charging Options

Solar charging options for electric boats offer a sustainable and convenient way to power marine vessels while reducing reliance on traditional grid electricity. By harnessing the energy of the sun as the power source, boats equipped with solar panels can extend their range and reduce charging times. 

Advanced lithium-ion batteries enables efficient storage of solar energy, allowing boats to cruise for extended periods without the need for shore power or fossil fuels.  

In Europe, where environmental regulations are strict and renewable energy adoption is high, solar-powered electric boats are gaining popularity. They are seen as practical and eco-friendly solutions for leisure cruising and commercial transportation.

With advancements in solar panel efficiency and energy storage capabilities, boats can now achieve full recharge within hours rather than days. Some production models boast half-hour recharge times, making it feasible for boaters to quickly top up their batteries while enjoying a shore break or short stopover. 

By integrating solar charging options into their design, electric boats can seamlessly harness the sun’s energy during daylight hours. This reduces reliance on grid electricity and minimizes environmental impact.

Pros and Cons of Electric Boats

These boats offer numerous benefits compared to conventional fuel-powered vessels, including:

  • Zero carbon emissions, preventing air and water pollution and enhancing the quality of recreational activities like fishing and nature exploration.
  • Quieter operation, reducing noise pollution and disturbance to marine life.
  • Lower operating costs, as electricity is generally cheaper than fuel.
  • Lower maintenance costs, as electric motors have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance.
  • Instant torque and smooth acceleration, providing a more enjoyable and responsive boating experience.
  • Lower service costs due to electric motors having fewer moving parts, resulting in reduced wear and tear and consequently lower maintenance requirements.

However, despite their environmental advantages, these boats face some challenges:

  • Lesser range compared to internal combustion engines.
  • Lack of charging facilities.
  • Reduced speeds.

Nevertheless, ongoing advancements in technology and improvements in infrastructure are gradually addressing these challenges.

1. Performance and Range

Electric boats, particularly smaller ones like dinghies and speedboats, often employ simple outboard motors powered by battery packs. In contrast, more advanced models may include built-in inboard motors for improved performance.

Compared to fuel-powered vessels, electric boats typically have a shorter range and runtime on a fully charged battery. This can affect their suitability for extended trips.

Their efficiency is influenced by the type of motor used. Outboard motors are typically connected to external batteries, while inboard systems utilize underwater pods for cooling or alternative methods within the hull.

2. Maintenance and Operating Costs

Converting boats to electric power often involves using readily available components. This can lead to lower maintenance and operating costs compared to combustion engine boats. Transitioning to electric power by replacing inboard and outboard engines with electric alternatives has the potential to:

  • Reduce maintenance costs over time.
  • Lower operating costs.
  • Decrease reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Improve environmental sustainability.

The cost of running an electric boat, especially charging at home, is typically much lower than the cost of fuel for a traditional boat. Professional services can further enhance electric boat efficiency by monitoring electrical consumption and implementing energy-saving practices.

Regular maintenance and proactive monitoring of an electric boat’s systems by professional services ensure smooth operation and timely problem resolution.

Want to learn more about the difference between electric vs. combustion engine boats? Read more here.

Emerging Technologies

In addition to lithium batteries, several other emerging technologies are poised to revolutionize electric boat propulsion. One such technology is hydrogen fuel cells, which generate electricity through the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. They emit only water vapor as a byproduct.

Hydrogen fuel cells offer longer ranges and faster refueling times compared to traditional batteries, making them an attractive option for certain marine applications.

Hydrogen Fuel Concept

Similarly, advancements in battery chemistry, such as solid-state batteries or lithium-sulfur batteries, could further improve energy density and performance. This could unlock new possibilities for electric boat design and operation.

Furthermore, innovations in areas like inductive charging and advanced power management systems are shaping the future of electric boat propulsion. Inductive charging allows for wireless charging of electric boat batteries through electromagnetic fields, simplifying the charging process and minimizing wear and tear on electrical components.

Meanwhile, smart battery management systems optimize performance by dynamically adjusting charging and discharging rates based on real-time energy demands and environmental conditions.

Additionally, advancements in lightweight materials and hull shape design contribute to the development of ultra-efficient boats with enhanced hydrodynamics and reduced drag.

Candela C-8

The Candela C-8 stands as a pinnacle of electric boat engineering, utilizing hydrofoiling technology to maximize efficiency and minimize energy consumption.

Crafted primarily from lightweight carbon fiber, its hull is meticulously designed to facilitate hydrofoiling, ensuring optimal performance on the water.

Notable features include:

  • A top speed of 30 knots (35 mph) for exhilarating rides.
  • A remarkable range of up to 50 nautical miles (57.5 miles) at a cruising speed of 22 knots on a single charge, alleviating range anxiety.
  • Spacious accommodations for up to eight passengers, providing ample room for onboard enjoyment and relaxation.
  • Customizable deck layouts, including an optional center console version, to suit individual preferences and needs.
  • Retractable hydrofoils for easy navigation in shallow waters.
  • As a larger iteration of its predecessor, the C-7, the C-8 offers expanded interior space and luxurious amenities typically associated with traditional day cruisers.

The Candela C-8 features innovative technologies like the Candela C-POD motor, guaranteeing a silent ride by eliminating mechanical transmission. Partnering with Polestar equips the C-8 with a 69 kWh car battery and fast charging, offering up to 57 nautical miles of range and recharging in just 35 minutes.

With its blend of luxury, efficiency, and performance, the Candela C-8 redefines electric boating, offering an unparalleled combination of comfort, speed, and sustainability.

Candela C-8 in Marstrand

Final words

The electric boat market is diverse, spanning various vessel types and applications. Leisure electric boats lead the market, yet there’s rising interest in electric propulsion for commercial use, like ferries, water taxis, and tour boats.

Moreover, technological advancements like electric hydrofoil boats and autonomous electric vessels are opening new possibilities for electric propulsion in niche segments.

In summary, battery-powered boats offer several compelling benefits:

  • They help mitigate environmental issues by significantly reducing harmful emissions and minimizing water pollution.
  • They can lead to substantial cost savings over time, not only in fuel expenses but also in maintenance costs due to the simpler mechanics of electric propulsion systems.
  • They offer a quieter and more serene experience, enhancing passenger enjoyment while minimizing noise pollution that can disrupt marine life and disturb the tranquility of water environments.
  • They offer a sustainable alternative to traditional combustion engines, aligning with global efforts to transition to renewable energy sources and reduce reliance on finite fossil fuels.

With advancing battery technology and decreasing costs, electric boats are poised to become increasingly competitive across various applications. Furthermore, growing global initiatives to combat climate change and embrace clean energy solutions further contribute to their promising future.

Candela C-8 in San Francisco
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