About 200 meters from the pier, Konrad Bergström asks me a question that he has certainly asked himself before: what do I hear? Nothing, I reply, just the sound of water as we glide through Stockholm harbour. We could be on a sailboat, it’s so calm.
I’m aboard the 2021 model of the Eelex 8000, X Shore’s luxury electric outboard. It was the search for that sound of the waves that first inspired Bergström in his quest to build an electric speedboat. But perhaps the real appeal of the boat is that it can go up to 40 knots and accelerate quickly, while creating zero emissions.
Bergström is typically bullish. “This summer, when so many people weren’t going overseas, we had a record number of inquiries and orders in Sweden,” he says, pointing out that the boat’s range – up to 100 miles nautical miles (about 185 km) at moderate speeds, and about 35 nautical miles (about 65 km) at 25 knots – ideal for a day cruise. “But we’ve also seen more orders from overseas,” he adds, “especially from the Middle East.
It seems that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated sales of electric boats. Yet even without the pandemic, the trend was already on the rise. By 2027, ID Tech Ex estimates the global market will reach over $20 billion. By volume, electric boating is the largest market, with tens of thousands of boats sold each year.
According to BlueWeave Consulting, the global electric boat market is expected to continue growing at a compound rate of 11.7% per year, from $8.31 billion in 2019. The consultants point out that different innovations in batteries, motors and components drive a variety of technological changes. .
Rising living standards and disposable incomes and the growing popularity of electric boats, along with tighter government restrictions on carbon emissions are helping to fuel this trend.
Electric boats can often look a little boxy compared to motor boats. It’s probably fair to say that the Eelex is no exception. But once on board, it doesn’t matter. The boat is beautifully finished, with a wooden sundeck with a bespoke railing system that allows guests to modify the design on board – or transport bikes and furniture to the archipelago or elsewhere for the weekend. .
The GPS screen is huge and clear, revealing nearby rocks and gear. There is also a spacious storage area in the bow of the boat – the boat can carry a load of up to 2,500 kg. There’s no mess, no oil, no grease; when the crew lifts the hatch, the storage area around the battery is spotlessly clean.
The boat comes with all the gadgets expected of a modern luxury speedboat, from a smartphone and smartwatch app that allows owners to unlock the boat and start the engine, and also shuts the boat down automatically if the wearer falls overboard.
Also, as Bergström points out, “The people who will buy this boat don’t care about how it looks from the shore, they care about high performance without polluting the water or destroying marine life. They are philanthropists.
With prizes starting at around €250,000, they must be quite wealthy philanthropists. If I had that much money, I might be tempted. Luckily for X Shore, there are plenty of people who do.
Deloitte estimates that there are more than 18.2 million ultra-high net worth people in the world, holding wealth of more than 70 trillion euros. The consultant valued the market for luxury boats, excluding yachts, at 1.2 trillion euros in 2018, and predicted (before Corona) that it would grow by 5.8% per year until 2023.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a competitive market. Even at home, X Shore faces plenty of competition, and electric technology is relatively easy to scale compared to engine-driven ones. While Bergström brought in many of Sweden’s leading marine engineers on the Eelex, so did Candela.
The Candela Seven is considered the world’s first electric hydrofoil boat, with a range of up to 50 nautical miles at 20 knots and a top speed of 30 knots. Industry insiders say the hydrofoil offers a smoother ride than the Eelex, while the lack of a wake minimizes erosion and coastal damage.
Still, for Bergström, the wake is a key part of the Eelex’s appeal. A former sport icon who launched the world’s first European wakeboard cup, he tells me that Swedish wakeboard champions Melanie Staff and William Klang surfed behind the Eelex.
Either way, X Shore is struggling to scale to meet demand. For many years just Bergström, a small team and a few consultants, the firm now has 25 staff, with Jenny Keisu, a former partner at Summa Equity, recently named CEO. Former Northvolt president of Battery Systems, Oscar Fors, has joined the company as COO.
This signals a move towards a more mature company. Is an IPO in sight? Keisu and Bergström say it’s not imminent, but don’t rule it out.
Initially funded entirely by Bergström, co-founder of Zound Industries, X Shore raised €9.5m in funding, including €1.5m in crowdfunding via FundedByMe. The funds are used to scale the business and to produce and deliver worldwide sales of a new 8 meter boat. Next year, the company plans to raise Series A funding to fund its continued expansion.
When I met Bergström last year, he told me he wanted to create the Tesla of electric boats, so I asked him if Elon Musk had already placed his order. No, he says, but we know he’s following us. I think he could afford it.