Right next to the fuel pumps of the boat refueling station in the port of Cogolin, there is now a new one all in green. Its fuel doesn’t smell, but it packs a punch: it’s concentrated electrical energy. Here on the Cote d’Azur, 75 kW rush at the push of a button via a cable as thick as an arm to the electric boat moored next to it.
The green gas pump is a fast-charging station for the latest generation of electric boats. Boats like the brand new X Shore 1 from Sweden, which travels up to 50 nautical miles at 20 knots cruising speed. Only then is the 63 kWh battery exhausted. The green column can almost completely refill this battery in one hour – so that the journey can continue.
The company that put up the green column is itself at the start of a great journey: Under the sonorous name Aqua superPower, the British company has set out to electrify the boating world. „We’re building the infrastructure“, says founder Stewart Wilkinson at the inauguration of the green column in Cogolin. His strategy sounds simple: „We’re putting charging stations where voyages can be easily electrified.“
Start at the epicenter of boating
On the Cote d’Azur, Aqua, as employees casually call their company, started at the epicenter of boating: The first charging stations were installed in Monaco and St. Tropez in 2020. Cannes and Ventimiglia followed. In a few years‘ time, Aqua’s green columns will supply electricity at intervals of 20 to 50 nautical miles in many marinas between San Remo and Marseille.
Thus grows a corridor along which you can comfortably and safely take electric boat trips. A green string of pearls. Boats of up to 15 meters in size can shimmy along it.
Who thinks Tesla now thinks right
The plan sounds fantastic – and strangely familiar. If you think Tesla now, you’re right: Ten years ago, the pioneer in the construction of electric cars began to set up a network of charging stations to quickly charge the batteries of his car models. Elon Musk had recognized that electric cars could only be used in everyday life if fast-charging stations were available as widely as possible.
The U.S. company started with one corridor each of its Superchargers on the west and east coasts of the U.S., which were later connected via trans-American corridors. Today, Tesla operates more than 32,000 Superchargers worldwide, the network is being continuously expanded and is now also open to other brands. And other manufacturers followed suit. And now Aqua on the water.
It’s quite possible that the boating industry will know Stewart Wilkinson as the „Musk of water sports“ in a few years. Because like the Tesla CEO, Wilkinson, who originally earned his bread and butter in the investment industry, has also tackled both at the same time: Grid and vehicles. Since 2018, he has owned Vita Yachts, a shipyard that builds electric pleasure boats. The largest is called the Vita Lion, a 10,50 meter runabout in the style of a Riva Aquarama, travels at speed up to 35 knots, and charges in just over an hour at the green charging station.
Wilkinson is therefore building charging stations for his yacht customers – and for the entire industry. And like Musk, the Briton is apparently calmly accepting the fact that for the time being only his very ambitious plan exists. And that a lot of time and money may pass before the desired network is in place. Around 50 charging stations have been set up around the world so far, and in addition to the Mediterranean corridor, one already exists in rudimentary form on England’s south coast.
There is also a single green column each at Lake Tahoe and Lake Michigan, one at Lake Maggiore, and one near Venice. Wilkinson wants to connect Germany to the Aqua network in 2023 at the earliest. And even if he ceremoniously inaugurates the first green column there, a long time may pass before the electricity flows. Martinho Fortunato knows a thing or two about that: The Portuguese is co-owner of the Lagos Marina, where an Aqua charging pole has been in place since June 2022. „No one has charged there yet,“ he tells float. Isn’t that frustrating?