The History of Symphony Electric Boats

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Frank Lloyd Wright was a strong influence on Symphony Boat Founder Marcel LaFond, whose parents broke ground on a Wright Usonian house on the day he was born. Learning about lean manufacturing and design at former employer Cirrus Aircraft, was another great influence.

LaFond is not formally trained in design but has carried a fascination for how others solve a design challenges and how he might do it, if he were given the task.  This came about from numerous hours of taking apart broken or old items as a kid. But being raised on a Minnesota lake also gave opportunity to break down the elements of a boat under sail, a propeller thrusting a motorboat forward, or the simple act of holding one’s breath under water.

Fast forward to college where, in 1982, he built an all-electric car from parts of a Volkswagen Beetle and a fiberglass body kit as a senior project.  After driving it around town that summer he retired the vehicle due to the obvious hazards of driving while surrounded by lead and acid.

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After studying small craft design and boatbuilding in Maine, LaFond discovered that there were few design jobs in the sailing yacht world but plenty in motor yacht design. After 10 years, he turned to aircraft where for 13 years he saw his aviation employer grow from about 50 people up to 1300 or more before the Great Recession put that career to an end.

A Wisconsin shipyard provided some opportunity for LaFond for a while but without a naval architect’s degree, the work the yard needed to keep busy was beyond the lessons learned in Maine - this is when Symphony Boat Company germinated.

Symphony Boats saw the need to make new watercraft that were gentler on the environment and that fostered a greater degree of interaction between the boater and the waterway.

Just like the quiet Torqeedo electric motor that has complimented the company’s philosophy, Symphony Boat is silently gaining relevance in the world of boating. Symphony Boats have exclusively used Torqeedo motors in all previous designs except the founding prototype.

The plan to launch the boats was also a business decision. The electric vehicle world is a growth industry. Together with partners Torqeedo U.S. and Lamboo Technologies, Symphony Boat Company is poised to become the Tesla of the boating industry.

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But for Symphony, electric propulsion doesn’t mean a complete departure from the roots of wooden pleasure watercraft; LaFond dreamt of the elegant classics of the early 20th century and how to bring that charm and romance of boating to a more efficient and environmentally friendly future.  But like the Wright house he grew up in, good design that endured was the ultimate goal.

The 2016 Six-1 Conductor (a.k.a. the Allegro Project) is the first American installation of the Torqeedo 80 hp Deep Blue inboard all-electric motor. With an approximate displacement of 1900 lbs., the 80 hp Deep Blue inboard will push her up to 30 mph. Torqeedo is a German company with product engineering expertise among the best in the industry.

Allegro’s look and design were an attempt to make an elegant, yet minimal, boat with the durability of the aluminum outer hull, which lends a decidedly modern tone to the final composition. The bamboo, wood, and hull shape itself, is to evoke the sleek look of a classic barrel-back runabout.

Her vee-bottom hull shape gets shallow as you go aft, and with her beamy stern she jumps to plane effortlessly with 6 passengers. A number of people have pointed out the utility of the Six-1 as a yacht tender and indeed, that was the reaction of Luke Schuette, founder of Lamboo Technologies, who is the supplier of the bamboo products that Symphony uses:

We need to figure out how to get one of these to the Monaco Yacht Show,” he said after seeing the first computer generated engineering model.
— Luke Schuette
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Design elements go beyond the bamboo (technically a grass, not a wood) and electric propulsion. Seating in the round so people can face each other makes the two launch designs more social vehicles. They are very easy to handle, making them perfect for high-end resorts where guests can rent one for a unique experience. The launches move at a leisurely speed of about 4 to 5 mph (6 mph top speed) making it stress free for the novice operator and the resort renting it. One of SBC’s first contracts was a small launch for two ladies in northern Minnesota who wanted to silently take in the beautiful wilderness of those northern lakes.

Symphony’s two launch designs utilize the Torqeedo outboard Cruise 2.0 tucked away in a cleverly designed motor well – giving them a classic inboard look. The Five-2 model was designed with a motor retract system that lifts the motor out of the water with an electric switch. It is a plus for elderly folks who don’t want to deal with manual tilt.

We have found that seniors and folks with limited mobility greatly appreciate the stout aluminum boarding pole and an optional hull-side door.
— LaFond.
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On the design table are a 23’ (electric auxiliary motor, of course), an electric glass bottom boat, and a unique wave piercing cat that will allow faster cruising with even less power. 

“We are truly excited about our future and invite you to consider one of these beautiful craft as part of your electric vehicle future” LaFond says.

More information at www.symphonyboat.com

Interview: Erik Fairbairn, Founder & CEO of POD Point

Erik Fairbairn
Erik Fairbairn

Today we are delighted to publish our interview with Erik Fairbairn, Founder & CEO of POD Point, giving us another expert opinion from inside the world of electric vehicles. POD Point is one of the U.K.’s fastest growing technology companies, offering electric vehicle charging solutions to both the domestic and the corporate market. We are certain you will find the interview extremely informative and a very interesting read:

Question 1: How long have you been involved in the electric vehicle market

I’ve been involved in the EV market since 2009. POD Point was founded in 2009. Ironically there weren’t really any EVs in 2009 (I consider the Nissan Leaf launched in 2010 to be the first real EV), so selling EV charge points was quite a big ask in 2009!

Question 2: Do you think that electric vehicles will outnumber their gasoline/petrol counterparts in the next 20 years?

Yes, undoubtedly. Earlier this year, I was of the opinion that that we would hit 7% of new car sales in 2020, 20% by 2025, and 85% by 2030.

I now think, with all the scandal developing around NOx and CO2 emissions, were going to see an even more rapid movement towards EV and zero emission vehicles as the general public realise the true level of pollution which internal combustion engines are actually producing.

Question 3: Are governments doing enough to support the electric vehicle market?

Well, I’m never one to suggest doing less but in truth, the government is doing some good here, but I do think they should be going further. Specifically with an ongoing strategy to increase taxation on higher polluting vehicles while simultaneously using that additional tax revenue to help fund the rollout of electric cars.

Done right, this could be a net zero revenue position for the government.

There are various EVs and hybrid vehicles across nearly all of the main segments now. Buying a highly polluting car is a customer choice, not a necessity in most cases. We should, as a responsible country be taxing people who pollute very heavily, and strongly encouraging the adoption of ultra low emission transport.

Question 4: Why has the electric vehicle sector seemingly failed so often in the past?

I think “Failed so often in the past” is a bit sensationalist, but I know what you are saying.

A number of items had to occur for EV to happen. Battery technology, great vehicles, general public understanding of the environment. All three of these are now happening. We have a public which is beginning to fully understand the issues with tailpipe emissions, we have battery technology which is capable of providing cars with 250 mile range, and we have a growing selection of really good vehicles available on the market.

Now we have these three things, EV demand is rocketing upwards.

Question 5: Is battery charging technology the final piece of the jigsaw?

We need two things: Compelling product, and more battery capacity per £.

We’re close on both. Cars like the Tesla Model S, and the BMW i3 are beginning to show people that EVs are a better. The electric car experience is better than that of internal combustion engine cars, and that is what we need. EVs must feel to the consumer like the significant step forward that they are, and we are seeing that now.

Secondly, we need 200 mile range cars at a lower price. Tesla has proven that 200 mile cars are possible, but currently at a high price. We’ll see a step change in EV sales when cars hit the £20k for 200 miles range point.

Question 6: What other general comments would you like to make about the electric vehicle market?

Working in the EV market at the moment is a privilege. It has been 100 years since we last changed the way we power personal transport – the last transition was when we moved from a horse to internal combustion engines as our main source of automotive power!

POD Point is right at the forefront of this, and through running POD Point, I’ve got the ability to make a significant contribution to moving UK (and soon Europe) onto zero emission personal transport.

Not many people are lucky enough to be able to work on a mission as important as that!

Currently we are crowdfunding to accelerate our mission of putting “a POD Point everywhere you park for an hour or more”. Anyone can get involved but we’re specifically inviting the EV community to invest so that they can share in our success but also be a real part of these significant changes in personal transport. You can invest or find out more on our campaign pages now: Electric Equity & Open Charge Bond #InvestAware

Interview: Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport

Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport
Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport

The latest of our interviews with experts from the world of electric vehicles brings in Roger Griffiths, who heads up the Formula E development activity at the famous Andretti Autosport team. We appreciate Roger taking time out from his busy schedule and we know that his insight into the world of electric cars will be of great interest to EV enthusiasts. Enjoy his very informative and very interesting interview below:-

Question: How long have you been involved in the electric vehicle market?

Since April 2014 when I joined Andretti Autosport – prior to that I was at the other end of the spectrum as Technical Director for Honda Performance Development running amongst other things their IndyCar programme. However, since joining Andretti I have headed up the Formula E development activity so almost exclusively EV development.

Question: Do you think that electric vehicles will outnumber their gasoline/petrol counterparts in the next 20 years?

I think that all the while that there is a plentiful supply of fossil fuel it would be hard to see EV’s outnumbering hybrids. Ironically as more EV’s / more hybrids / more efficient ICE cars are on the roads and as mainline industry becomes more efficient, the actual available fossil fuel will go much further than it would have done 20yrs ago. If you read the Exxon Mobil report 2015 Energy Outlook, which covers the period now through until 2040, it shows conventional gasoline cars peaking around 1000M in 2035 but full EV’s are on shown to be around 5% of that number. The real growth comes in the hybrid sector.

Question: Are governments doing enough to support the electric vehicle market?

I think governments generally do what is in their best interests for the period they are in office, combine that with a strong lobby from the oil industry, it makes any significant support challenging. I think more will come from the private sector. It would take major changes in the regulations that govern fuel economy and emissions to impact this. Perhaps that is their strongest weapon. Governments could also encourage the supply chain (OEM’s Charging Stations, Utilities companies etc.) to do more to promote EV through other incentives.

Question: Why has the electric vehicle sector seemingly failed so often in the past?

I think there are several reasons; performance, range, reliability are the most often thought about but also the visual appearance of EV’s. Only recently with cars such as the Tesla have we seen exciting looking EV’s. Too often the styling of the cars lack a lot. Cars such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have not done enough to excite visually – too close to a conventional car, but compromised by the packaging requirements of an EV – they just end up looking awkward. BMW took a more unique approach with the i3, throwing convention out of the window and designing a car that understood the packaging requirements of an EV and combined that with a style that is more visually striking and unique which then doesn’t end up looking like a poorly designed crossover / SUV.

Question: Is battery charging technology the final piece of the jigsaw?

Certainly it is very important – the convenience of refilling your car with petrol / gasoline and being on your way in just a few minutes is a far cry from having to wait an hour or more to top up your EV. When you set out on a journey of any length today, you would have to carefully plan your route with an EV to ensure that you were able to find charging stations that would get you to your destination – while this is improving all the time with more and more charging stations being put in to use – however, if the numbers of EV’s in use grow so that they far out weight the number of charging stations (especially on popular routes) you could find similar images to the fuel crisis pictures of the early 70’s, when you had lines of cars waiting to refuel – only this time to get a charge. So it needs to be a combination of more stations and faster charging. But faster charging brings other challenges down the line as the battery pack needs to be able to cope with the high rates of charge without long term damage.

Question: What other general comments would you like to make about the electric vehicle market?

I believe for most families, the EV would likely remain as the second car; the primary one being the conventional ICE powered (and / or hybrid). It for the most part would be the short range/commute, inner city mode of transport.

Additionally, while in service the EV is clearly a winner when it comes to the emissions, a more broader outlook of the emissions from ‘the cradle to the grave’ needs to be addressed to ensure that the overall pollution created by the EV is less that the fossil fueled counterpart. It is often overlooked that the manufacturing process to create ‘green technology’ can potentially create worse overall emissions.

Interview with Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport

Interview: Chris Everitt, Founder and Director of EV Charging Solutions

Chris Everitt EV Charging Solutions
Chris Everitt EV Charging Solutions

The latest of our interviews with experts in the electric vehicle market comes from Chris Everett, the founder and a director of UK-based EV Charging Solutions. Chris gives us a very interesting insight into the electric vehicle charging market and his general opinions on the electric car market itself are extremely informative. We trust you will enjoy his interview below:

Question: How long have you been involved in the electric vehicle market?

EV Charging Solutions was founded in September 2013. Prior to this I have 10 years of experience in the electrical industry.

Question: Do you think that electric vehicles will outnumber their gasoline/petrol counterparts in the next 20 years?

Yes, the tipping point will come sooner rather than later. Environmental pressure means manufacturers have little choice other than to offer an electric drive train in their vehicles. As more and more vehicles are released the public’s perception of electric vehicles will change and we expect them to be the vehicle to have rather than the diesel or petrol alternative.

Question: Are governments doing enough to support the electric vehicle market?

The government’s fiscal measures are the real driving force behind the huge increase in plug in vehicle sales. The plug in car grant helps to reduce the up-front costs faced by the user and the generous BIK rate on plug in vehicles means any company car driver that chooses a plug in rather than a diesel or petrol vehicle can save a significant amount of money. The biggest saving we have had was one customer saving £16,000 over three years by changing to a plug in vehicle.

Question: Why has the electric vehicle sector seemingly failed so often in the past?

A lack of vehicles and public perception has been the real stumbling block to the take-off of vehicles. Originally people's views were the cars were more like milk floats and weren't taken seriously. With nearly every major manufacturer including Bentley and Lamborghini offering a plug in vehicle, people's choice and views have changed in favour of electric vehicles.

Question: Is battery charging technology the final piece of the jigsaw?

No, battery technology is the key. We speak to clients everyday who say the same thing, when all vehicles go 300 miles on a charge you will have mass adoption. Charging infrastructure is an important factor especially when ranges are around 80-100 miles. On a 300 mile journey the driver will have to charge up to 4 times. You have a vehicle that goes 300 miles you don't have to stop en route. Destination charging will increase in popularity, en route charging may not be needed as much.

Question: What other general comments would you like to make about the electric vehicle market?

EV Charging Solutions are leading installers of EC charging infrastructure based in the Midlands and working nationwide. We install hundreds of home charging units every month and have a growing list of commercial clients including the environment agency, Deloitte, Duchy of Cornwall and Brompton bikes.

Interview: Prof. Dr. C. A. Kloeckner, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Christian A. Klöckner
Christian A. Klöckner

The second of our interviews with experts in the field of electric vehicles is with Prof. Dr. Christian A. Kloeckner from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Many people see the Norwegian electric vehicle market as the perfect blueprint for the future bringing together an array of practical and financial aspects to encourage the use of alternative energy sources. It is always interesting to hear the views and opinions of those involved in this field and we are sure you will find this interview extremely informative:

Question: How long have you been involved in the electric vehicle market?

Prof Kloeckner: Well, I am not really involved in the market; I am a researcher studying consumer behavior, among other things with electric cars. We started the first study on electric car purchase and use some years ago when a PhD student of mine was looking for a topic. Since car traffic is such a relevant contributor to CO2 emissions, was purchase of cars the behavior we wanted to study from a psychological perspective and we realized soon that the Norwegian market for electric cars was developing quickly at that time. That was still when the big car companies were not in the market and the Nissan Leaf was dominating (even some Thinks were still around). Since then I have been following the development from a pioneer product to a mass market product in Norway.

Question: Do you think that electric vehicles will outnumber their gasoline/petrol counterparts in the next 20 years?

Prof Kloeckner: There is a possibility for that, but that depends a lot on structural conditions. In Norway we can observe, that strong incentive structures can push the market considerably, so that now more than 20% of new cars bought are electric cars (hybrids not included). However, even in a market under almost perfect conditions like the Norwegian (strong financial and psychological incentives, high level of income, etc.), the rate of adoption seems to slow down at the moment. There are some preconditions that I see for a more sustainable success of electric mobility: (1) powerful incentive structures in a startup phase (which might last quite a long time); (2) development of the vehicles towards longer ranges or faster recharging so that longer distances can be covered; (3) good access to charging infrastructure; (4) transition of the energy production so that electric mobility actually has an environmental benefit; (5) psychological incentives alongside financial (do not underestimate for example the psychological effect of not having to pay toll on roads – it is not just the financial effect).

Under 2015 conditions I doubt the electric cars will outnumber gasoline cars in 2035, also because the car fleets’ renewal rates are often quite low. It will take decades to get old gasoline cars out of the system (if subsidies are not coupled to this). Buying new electric cars pushes more gasoline cars into the used car market, especially if seen in a global perspective.

Question: Are governments doing enough to support the electric vehicle market?

Prof Kloeckner: Some do a lot, others do not. The question seems to be more what the right incentives are. What we see in Norway at the moment is, that powerful incentive packages like reduced one-time tax, reduced annual tax, exemption from road toll, free parking, use of bus lanes, even free electricity in many (slow) charging stations creates a high demand for electric cars. However, what we also see is that the subsidy structure seems to promote car use over other modes like biking or public transportation, because the subsidies make electric mobility virtually costless after the initial investment. For future incentive schemes it should be taken into account how to counteract such rebound effects of producing more car traffic in cities. REDUCED parking fees and road tolls instead of ZERO fees could be a way to go, or including public transportation tickets or an (electric) bike in the car price, or coupling subsidies to actually substituting a gasoline car (not extending your own car fleet). If the effect of electric car stimulation is more car traffic, even though with cleaner cars, then the development goes in the wrong direction.

Question: Why has the electric vehicle sector seemingly failed so often in the past?

Prof Kloeckner: That is an interesting question. Gasoline has been cheap, gasoline cars have been comfortable to drive also long distances. Big car producers have ignored alternative drive engines. Cars have also a symbolic function and the engine burning gasoline with a loud noise was a long time culturally defined as a sign of power (probably still is: how many electric cars do you see in action movies? I saw my first one in a TV series lately – a Nissan Leaf – but the guy driving it was not the masculine hero, to put it that way). Car ownership is much more integrated in self-image than other products.

Question: Is battery charging technology the final piece of the jigsaw?

Prof Kloeckner: Ways to make sure to have enough electricity in the battery are at least important for people. However, to be honest, for most of the trips people do in everyday life recharging is not a big issue. Modern electric cars have long enough range to cover what you need. What could be more important than battery charging are flexible solutions for the few cases where the range is not enough. A pool of rental gasoline cars available for electric car owners, an included train discount could be options (some producers actually give you a free rental car for a number of days a year, would be interesting to see how many people actually use that offer). I think the range/recharging discussion is rather an objectivation of a more fundamental feeling of not buying a “real car” for some people.

And from a technical side; if fancy charging infrastructure uses so much energy that the environmental benefit of electric cars is eaten up, then again this is a wrong development. I rather see the development of the batteries to improve both their environmental balance, lifetime and range as more important than the charging technology. If the electric car takes you 300 km without problems, you mostly will not care if you can recharge from the road while you are driving.

Question: What other general comments would you like to make about the electric vehicle market?

Prof Kloeckner: The restructuring of the car market is interesting and it is interesting to see that the big brands finally hopped on the train they have almost missed. That opens options for reaching the more brand loyal among the car buyers who usually are connected to the larger brands. Other countries should look to Norway and carefully analyse what works well and what side effects are produced by incentive structures to counteract rebound effects. Electric cars can also have other functions in modern smart grids, namely being a high tech battery for electricity that is more likely produced decentralized in the future.

And finally, on a personal note: It is just great fun to drive an electric car I have to say as an owner of one.

Best regards,

Christian