Exclusive: Former Tesla exec unveils slick-looking solar-powered electric speedboat

Electric boating is quickly becoming a fascinating industry with a growing list of players offering high-tech watercraft. The latest high-performance electric speedboat planning to hit the waters is the R30 from Blue Innovations Group (BIG).

BIG was founded by Tesla’s former head of global manufacturing John Vo. He ran Tesla’s manufacturing from 2011 to 2017 and knows a thing or two about building electric vehicles, though boats are certainly new territory for Vo.

We spoke about the growing electric watercraft industry, and Vo described to me why the time is ripe for a revolution in boating. “Ten years ago, starting an electric car company made sense. But now it is established,” explained Vo. “But electric boats on the other hand are a no-brainer. I want to bring a revolution to the industry.”

The R30, he believes, is the kind of revolution that could help clean up boating. That’s why the company’s goal isn’t to hand-build just a few expensive luxury boats. “To really impact the environment, you can’t build electric boats by the dozens. It has to be by the thousands.”

Vo hopes to reach that volume by designing the 30-foot electric cabin cruiser for mass production utilizing automotive manufacturing techniques. Part of that plan involves eschewing typical boat manufacturing methods such as fiberglass or carbon fiber in favor of an aluminum hull as well as using a battery that is structurally integrated as part of the boat’s frame.

Longevity is also part of the plan. Vo’s aluminum construction allows him to offer a lifetime guarantee on the hull. Opting for lithium iron phosphate instead of traditional NMC or NCA lithium-ion batteries also allows him to more than double the lifespan of the battery. “So it’s a little bit bigger of a battery with slightly lower energy density,” he mused. “I have the space – it’s a boat.”

The downside of the aluminum design is that it complicates tooling, something that the boat’s designers are still working on solving. They’ve got time, though not too terribly much of it. BIG has an aggressive schedule ahead of it. They’ll debut a prototype at CES early next month using a prototype hull. That prototype will become an alpha model for testing by February of 2023, followed by four beta models to be produced by October of 2023. By Q2 2024, BIG expects to be delivering R30 boats to reservation holders.

Speaking of those reservation holders, you can already hop in line for an R30. It’s not cheap with an expected price of US $300,000, but that’s in the ballpark of other high-end electric boats hitting the market soon. It’s also not far off of the price of gas-powered luxury boats these days. Even if the $300K price tag fits the current market, Vo fully expects that price to drop as mass production enables cost reductions.

r30 electric boat console

And to be fair, the R30 looks to be squarely in the luxury column. Vo described it as a connected oasis with versatility allowing it to be used within the confines of a healthy work/life balance. Take a Zoom call in the comfort of the sofa in the cabin, then return up top to go fishing on the walkaround bow. Or if fishing isn’t your thing, just lay out on the sun bed. For those that prefer to get wet, foldout swim platforms on three sides of the stern will make it easy to enter and exit the water.

And if it’s shade you’re after, the hardtop does double duty by blocking the sun and also turning those rays into usable energy. Extendable solar panels fold out from the main canopy to provide up to 2.7 kW of solar power for recharging the boat’s massive liquid-cooled 221 kWh battery. At that rate you could run the battery nearly empty each weekend and come back at the end of the week to a fully-charged battery. Of course you could also just charge it up using shore power at the dock, but where’s the fun in that? And having an infinite supply of electricity above our heads sure makes for a nice way to recharge while bobbing around out on the water.

Considering that many power boats aren’t actually used everyday (or even multiple times during the week), the R30 stands to become a net zero boat for many users, meaning it would independently generate all the energy it needs to operate.

With a maximum speed of around 39 knots (45 mph or 72 km/h) from a pair of motors creating a combined 800 hp (600 kW), the R30 provides some serious performance to match its slick design. In fact, that’s more than 50% more powerful than the previous ‘highest-powered electric speedboat’ title claimed by Arc.

And a former Tesla executive isn’t going to build an electric boat without a slick design to match. From the spacious below-deck cabin with versatile bed/table arrangement (flip the table upside to turn it into a large mattress) the large dual-screen console complete with Tesla-style yoke steering wheel, the R30 doesn’t seem to miss a beat on style.

r30 electric boat

What do you think of the Blue Innovation Group’s R30 electric powerboat?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd, and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power, The Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide and The Electric Bike Manifesto.

The e-bikes that make up Micah’s current daily drivers are the $999 Lectric XP 2.0, the $1,095 Ride1Up Roadster V2, the $1,199 Rad Power Bikes RadMission, and the $3,299 Priority Current. But it’s a pretty evolving list these days.

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