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Electric boats and submarines will be worth $7.3bn by 2024

07 February, 2014

The global market for electrically powered watercraft – including those that operate on and under the water – will grow from $2.6bn in 2014 to $7.3bn in 2024, according to a new report from the market analyst, IDTechEx.

The report also predicts a new market will emerge for waterborne electric aircraft, and forecasts that the market for electric outboard motors will more than triple in value as high-power electric motors become increasingly viable.

About 60% of the existing manufacturers of electrically powered craft focus on underwater vehicles, but most make very small numbers. The report estimates that underwater vessels account for about half of current expenditure on electrically powered watercraft. Military spending on electric watercraft is focused on underwater vessels, while civil expenditure is mostly directed at surface craft.

Industrial and commercial applications – spanning inland and seagoing, and hybrid and pure electric vessels – represent the biggest sector of the marine electric vehicle business.

But IDTechEx expects two developments to boost the leisure sector. One is the emergence of fast, small, electric boats for water-skiing and other sports; the other is larger, sea-going motor yachts, powered by hybrid powertrains that give them a long range.

This follows the emergence from bankruptcy of the US-based lithium-ion battery-maker Valence Technology, which helped the French boat-builder Beneteau to develop hybrid motor and sailing yachts that can run their propellers backwards when under sail, and from the tides when moored, to generate energy from the flow of water (illustrated in the video below).

IDTechEx expects the electrical marine sector to benefit from environmental laws. For example, laws are increasingly banning polluting vessels from inland waterways, boosting sales of pure electric craft.

The analyst predicts that, in future, plug-in hybrids will be favoured for larger seagoing boats to cut costs and improve reliability, compared to vessels with conventional engines. It expects many new forms of electrically powered underwater craft to appear, and says that the seagoing market will be boosted by military developments and by the growing pressure to “harvest” the oceans of commodities such as minerals and marine life.

The report suggests that advances in the components for electrically powered watercraft and their infrastructure will happen disruptively, rather than incrementally.

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