One of the guys behind the Aptera Motors EV is turning his eco-consciousness to boating with a 375-horsepower cruiser he calls the world's first hybrid sports boat.
Chris Anthony, who co-founded the company producing the Aptera 2e electric car, says the Epic Wakeboats 23E burns 50 percent less fuel and emits half as much CO2 as a typical wakeboard boat during a four-hour outing on the water. It also represents a new direction for gas-electric technology in boats.
The sleek 22-footer is a series hybrid that uses a small gasoline engine to drive a generator that keeps the lithium-ion batteries going as they approach depletion. It's similar to what you'll find under the hood of the Chevrolet Volt, and we haven't heard of anyone using something like this in a boat. The Island Pilot DSe is equipped with a parallel hybrid system, while the 145 Hybrid by Scout Boats is more like a powerboat with a couple of trolling motors strapped to the stern.
"This is a real turning point in recreational boating," Anthony told Wired.com. "Nothing can compete with the 23E."
Anthony started boat building by molding hulls in his garage. His company's first boat, the 23V, was billed as "the world's first wake boat" when it hit the market in 2005. It is designed specifically for wakeboarding. It features 4,000 pounds of water ballast and a design Anthony calls dynamic reduction of pressure (or "DROP") zone hull technology, which pulls the hull into the water at speed to create huge wakes.
The latest innovation is a hybrid system Anthony calls Flux Propulsion EVO 8.1 Marine Drive. He says it produces the equivalent of 375 horsepower, enough to propel the 23E to 36 mph while burning far less fuel than comparable vessels. The 23E allows for a one hour wakeboarding session without burning a drop of fuel.
"My accomplishments with Aptera Motors and EPIC Wakeboats are two different conversations," Anthony said. "Both companies are about saving the environment but in totally different ways. Aptera Motors is about helping people do their part to save the environment while commuting to work, and EPIC Wakeboats is more about saving the environment while having fun."
The batteries, which are mounted along the centerline of the boat, can be recharged from a common 110- or 220-volt wall socket, and Anthony hopes buyers will slap a few solar panels on their boathouse roofs to make the 23E that much greener. As for mixing electricity and water, don't sweat it. Anthony says it's perfectly safe.
"A lot of people get scared when they think hybrid boats because of the combination of water and electricity, but everything about the E23 is marine appropriate," he said. "Even if you sink the boat there won't be a problem."
The 23E doesn't skimp on the amenities, either. It's got a stereo with 10 speakers for blasting tunes when your rip'n and ride'n and a dual rudder system for quick turns. With room for 14 people, you won't have to leave anyone back at the marina.
All this technology ain't cheap, with the boat expected to cost as much as $150,000 when it hits the water in July. Epic hopes to produce a $70,000 model by 2012, and it's considering a diesel-electric model down the line.