Calling electric vehicles "the future" is so 2019. Pretty much every major car manufacturer has one (or more) electric vehicle in their lineup. Does that mean boats are next?
Sea Ray recently made a splash in Las Vegas, when the company unveiled one of the most innovative boats in the marine industry at CES 2020, Jan. 7–10. The Brunswick-owned company debuted their brand-new SLX-R 400e Outboard. Sea Ray boasts about the engine's "cutting-edge technology paired with high-performance propulsion, elevated design elements and the orchestrated excellence of the SLX 400." But the most interesting thing about the new engine is its lithium batteries.
The “e” in the SLX-R 400e Outboard model name designates a first-of-its-kind boat electrification feature – the Fathom e-Power system. Developed by Brunswick, the Fathom system includes a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack with an intuitive power management system capable of powering all of the boat’s accessory systems. That means boaters can enjoy all of the boat's features—even including refrigeration and air conditioning—for a longer, quieter and more eco-friendly day on the water.
Could this be the beginning of the industry's foray into electric powered boats? The pioneers are already out there on the water: Lake of the Ozarks was introduced to battery-powered boats in 2018 and 2019, when the Shootout boat race welcomed the first electric boats to the race course. In 2018, the Calypso, powered by Torqueedo electric engines, ran 25 mph. In 2019, the Volt, powered by twin Deep Blue 50kW motors, ran 30 mph. But those were small boats, traveling at 1940s-level boating speeds.
So when will electric boats become serious contenders on the water? "In terms of a full on battery powered boat, we aren’t there yet," said Lee Gordon, Brunswick's Director for Marine Public Relations & Communications. Boats face significant hurdles in that process, both of which highlight batteries' current weaknesses: power and recharging. The average car will run on 100-300 horsepower. That'd be plenty to push a lightweight fishing boat, but larger pleasure boats need 10-times that much.
"If you look at what we displayed at CES, with 1,350hp of outboard engines on the back – that would take a lot of batteries to achieve the same power," Gordon pointed out. "In addition, you can put fuel in the outboard engines whereas there are no charging stations in the ocean."
He pointed out that the Fathom e-Power system is "new to the industry and we will build off of that."
"We will continue to look for opportunities for electrification, and the acquisition of Power Products and Mastervolt puts us at the forefront of that mission in the marine industry," he added.
The SLX-R 400e
“CES presents a unique opportunity to debut the new SLX-R 400e in front of an audience that will truly appreciate its beauty, capabilities and incredible suite of new technologies,” said Steve Langlais, Sea Ray president. “This pioneering new model, which will be available in 2020, showcases the kind of unique, advanced technologies that are worthy of the world’s largest consumer electronics show.” With more than 170,000 attendees and 4,500 exhibitors, CES is the world’s largest and most influential tech event.
The SLX-R 400e Outboard is propelled by triple Mercury® Racing 450R outboard engines and features Mercury’s Joystick Piloting for Outboards, NextWave™ innovations such as Quiet Ride™ and Dynamic Running Surface™. Other highlights include an exclusive helm display with Dual Digital Dash™ NSO evo3 16-inch displays, state-of-the-art systems from Simrad®, and a premier FUSION® Apollo RA770 marine audio system with a touchscreen display for the ultimate in technologically advanced sound. The boat also comes standard with the Sea Ray Connect™ remote monitoring system, powered by NAUTIC-ON™.
Enhancing the SLX 400 aesthetic, the SLX-R 400e Outboard showcases upscale design elements including special-edition Shadow metallic gel paint, superior quality upholstery with contrast stitching, red underwater lighting and red accent lighting throughout the vessel. Its best-in-class layout offers seating for 22 passengers, an abundance of storage space and iconic amenities like the inviting sunpad and fold down swim terrace. Below deck, a generous cabin that sleeps four creates a comfortable space to escape the elements, relax or spend the night.
“Last year, Sea Ray introduced the special-edition SLX-R 350 Outboard,” said Brad Zoelle, Sea Ray vice president of category management. “Due to its astounding success, I am thrilled to announce we have expanded the R package within the SLX family to present the SLX-R 400e Outboard.”