This electric speedboat is fast, quiet, clean — and pricey

Electric boats are less damaging to waterways and the climate, but at $300,000 each, the new Arc One is not priced for the masses yet.
By Maria Gallucci

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A man and a women sit in a black and white speedboat on a mountain lake
The Arc One electric speedboat (Arc)

Electric cars are becoming more affordable thanks to long-term declines in battery prices and the significant scale-up of EV production worldwide. Electric boats, on the other hand, are just starting their voyage from luxury item to mass-market object.

On Wednesday, Arc Boat Company officially started selling its battery-powered cruiser, which — at $300,000 — costs about 50 percent more than a comparable gas-powered boat. The 24-foot Arc One has three times the battery storage capacity of a Tesla Model Y and can reach hair-whipping speeds of 40 miles per hour.

Arc, whose team includes former SpaceX engineers, raised $30 million in venture capital financing last year to set up its first production run in Los Angeles, where the startup is based. The company began accepting preorders for the luxury powerboat last summer and, as of this week, is now working its way down the waitlist, said Ted Herringshaw, Arc’s head of product. He declined to share exactly how many boaters are waiting for their battery-powered vessels to arrive.

We’ve found a nice niche of folks who are really excited to be [early] adopters, in the same way that there was this opportunity for Tesla 10 years ago or so,” he told Canary Media.

Arc is among a growing number of startups that are working to electrify day cruisers, leisurely pontoons, fishing vessels and other types of watercraft. The companies say they aim to eliminate the obnoxious noise, harmful exhaust and sheens of leaking fuel that come with burning oil in marine combustion engines.

Nearly 12 million recreational vessels were registered in the United States in 2020, compared to about 276 million passenger cars. Boat engines contribute a relatively tiny slice — less than 1 percent — of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. They more immediately impact the surrounding environment and community by spewing smog-forming pollutants into the air and spilling fuel.

Transportation experts say that small recreational vessels can be good first candidates” for developing the zero-emissions technologies needed to clean up larger, longer-distance vessels. Globally, the international shipping industry accounts for nearly 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions every year. That figure is expected to soar in coming decades unless container ships and tankers switch to cleaner forms of propulsion, including batteries, high-tech wind devices and possibly even hydrogen and ammonia.

Beyond hawking its high-powered e-boats, Arc says its mission is to electrify the broader marine industry. The company launched in January 2021 and has spent the past year and a half developing its 500-horsepower Arc One model. A demonstration vessel has already glided through California’s Arrowhead and Piru lakes as well as the coastal waters near L.A.’s Marina del Rey harbor.

A group of people riding in a black and white speedboat

It’s been a lot of testing and getting through a lot of those engineering learnings and challenges that come up along the way as we’re going from concept to actual product,” Herringshaw said.

Arc is building its electric boats at a facility in Los Angeles’ Inglewood neighborhood. Initially, the company planned to start delivering its battery-powered watercraft around Memorial Day, at the start of the summer boating season. But with supply-chain disruptions delaying production timelines, Arc now aims to deliver its first vessels within a couple of months, before the end of summer, Herringshaw said.

Meanwhile, gas prices are expected to stay painfully high at marinas and roadside filling stations around the country. That could enhance the appeal of gas-free, battery-powered vessels — even if early adopters aren’t exactly feeling the burden on their bank accounts.

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Maria Gallucci is a senior reporter at Canary Media. She covers emerging clean energy technologies and efforts to electrify transportation and decarbonize heavy industry.