Pilot Swedish Electric Hydro with Candela

A speedboat appears in the autumn sun, but it looks nothing like most electric boats I’ve seen. The Candela P-7 has the long sleek contours of a conventional powerboat and I’m about to pilot it. It is, according to the Swedish company, the world’s first hydrofoil electric outboard.

Once on board, a stone’s throw from the jetty, the demonstrator asks me to fasten my seat belt. “Ready to take off?” he asks, pushing the throttle forward, like an airplane. As at the signal, there is a hum, two red hydrofoils descend through the boat and on the water, and we go up.

As we make our way to the Stockholm archipelago, we aim at the back of a passenger ferry and climb the wake. There are no hits, no bumps. The Candela C-7 simply glides.

I take the accelerator and the steering wheel again. As we accelerate the boat seems momentarily unstable but then we ascend. hydrofoils go up and it’s smooth and calm. At first I feel like I’m skating on two blades, albeit in a surprisingly steady way, but it fades as I get used to flying.

Three days later I have the chance to pilot the boat again in different weather conditions – pouring rain. I am more confident; the novelty of being on a hydrofoil is fading. Although the cockpit is open, I remain surprisingly dry, protected by the splash screen in front of the steering wheel.

At 20 nautical knots per hour, the optimum speed for fuel efficiency, the Candela handles easily and stays balanced, thanks to the fighter jet technology behind the boat’s software and electronics.

Hydrofoils guarantee reduced drag, and Candela says power consumption has been reduced by up to 80% compared to other traditional hulled electric boats. The C-7’s 40 kWh battery is relatively light, and with a lightweight carbon fiber hull, it’s easy to reach 30 knots.

Scaling

Back on dry land at the factory, I watch the craftsmen working on Candela’s new boat, the C-8, a day cruiser. The top speed is also 30 knots, although it can accommodate up to six adults and two children.

Concentration is etched on the faces of the men and women working on the boats. Mass production is not.

However, Candela has a large backlog, especially in the United States, where she has a sales manager in Silicon Valley. Although it didn’t start manufacturing the C-7 until 2019, Hasselskog tells me the company could turn a profit by 2023. Candela moves to a larger factory north of Stockholm, but it it’s hard to see how it will develop.

Up to 70% of production costs are related to labor. “It’s been a very manual process, and it’s not really changing, so we’re increasingly tackling how we can automate production,” admits CEO and founder Gustav Hasselskog.

For example, for each boat, a laser-cut carbon fiber cloth mat must be placed manually in a mold. It is then evacuated and epoxy is poured in, while the air is sucked in – a process called bagging and wrapping. Using a milking machine, someone should then cut off the excess carbon fiber around the edges of the finished hull.

With the C-8, Candela abandoned the use of carbon fiber for the sheet metal for the mechanism for attaching the foils to the hull and for retracting. This makes it easier to achieve consistent quality, and there are established ways to use robots for welding.

For now, Candela’s boats are expensive. The C-7 sells for € 250,000 plus VAT and the C-8 € 290,000 plus VAT While early adopters were happy to pay, speedboat customers are price sensitive, and Hasselskog admits the price is too high.

“The goal for us is to reduce manufacturing costs, because the only way to have a significant impact on the environment is to reduce the price of the boat, and to do that we have to grow,” he said. .

There are two ways to reduce costs: by using cheaper and lighter materials, such as glass rather than carbon fiber, and by adopting less labor-intensive manufacturing processes. For example, it might be possible to automate the arrangement of carbon fiber mats in the hull. The highly fragmented outboard industry has been slow to automate, but Hasselskog says Candela is stepping up its own R&D in an effort to accelerate innovation.

Fasten your seat belts

Price may matter to consumers, but when it comes to passenger ferries, operating costs matter. This is where Candela’s commercial fleet comes in, the P-12, a water taxi that seats 12, and the P-30, a water bus that can accommodate up to 30 passengers.

Next month, Candela will begin taking orders for the P-12. So far, more than 45 municipal authorities, including Venice, have inquired about and / or visited the P-12. Operating this boat can reduce the operator’s fuel and energy costs by 80-95% compared to an electric ferry with a traditional hull and less range, says Candela.

From March next year, the smaller version of the P-30 will transport commuters from central Stockholm to one of the neighboring islands, cutting the existing commute in half. It is a joint venture with the regional transport authority.

Stockholm has one of the most environmentally friendly public transport systems in the world. Most of the area’s buses and trains run on renewable energy, but water transport lags far behind.

“We want more people to travel by public transport and we want to increase the capacity of our waterways,” says Gustav Hemming, president of regional planning for the Stockholm region.

There are only three electric ferries in service and two more being tested with the transport authority. Compared to the P-12 and P-30, they are slower and have less range.

“It takes a lot of energy to run a traditional commuter boat – they’re not energy efficient, so we’re very happy to try Candela’s boat. It offers both energy efficient solution and higher speed.

The region is not paying for the Candela P-30, but Hemming says savings in energy costs and profit from tariffs could fund a possible purchase.

With only 12 seats in this particular version, it’s likely to be full as well. “By moving from the largest to the smallest, the city can increase ferry capacity and even move towards a system where transport can be on demand,” explains Erik Eklund, public transport manager at Candela.

In other words, it is not only energy efficient, but opens up a world of possibilities for customers.

Candela, who plans to take orders for the P-12 from early next month, has received inquiries and visits from more than 45 municipal authorities, including Venice. This boat can reduce the operator’s fuel and energy costs by 80-95%. Thanks to hydrofoils, the P-12 and P-30 can travel at an average speed of 50 km / h.

The days of slow, smelly diesel ferries are drawing to a close.


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