A fine drizzle falls on lush greenery – we are in Bilbao, in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. Luis Ponce de León, responsible for marketing, takes me to the Lasai headquarters. The AIC, a European center for automotive development, is located in this lush green area in the southwest of the Basque metropolis. Highly qualified specialists work here in 30 multidisciplinary companies on innovative technologies.
Gari Telleria, the managing director of Lasai, shows me around the company’s premises: office upstairs, boat hall downstairs – perfect interaction in a futuristic ambience.
The history of Lasai is young and begins in 2021. Until then, José Galíndez, an entrepreneur from Getxo, is mainly active as a developer and manufacturer of solar energy systems. In 2021, he will sell 51% of his company Solarpack to a Swedish fund and focus on his investment company Beraunberri.
A shuttle for an island gallery as a starting point
The Basque, who comes from an industrial founding family in Bilbao, spends a lot of time on Menorca. His wife knows the busy gallery owners Hauser and Wirth. Among other things, they run a gallery on the Isla del Rey in the bay of Mahon in an old military hospital with a claim to sustainability. They are looking for an emission-free means of transportation for the shuttle between the city and the island.
Galíndez quickly comes up with the idea of building solar-electric boats for this purpose. He knows all about solar energy. He asks a friend, a trained boat builder, to design a suitable boat for him. This is how the Lasai 20 TR was created, a shuttle boat for nine people that will ferry guests to Isla del Rey.
Galíndez has a claim. He wants to build sustainable boats. What matters to him is maximum range at an acceptable speed. They are designed to be as efficient as possible: with lightweight materials, a hydrodynamically favorable hull and solar panels on the roof for the sea and for the lake.
The transformation is already here
This is how the shipyard for solar-electric boats is being built in the middle of the Basque Country: “Lasai” means calm in Basque. Since 2021, Lasai has developed two more boats of the same size, which are also purely solar-electric.
“We have focused on the future,” explains Gari Telleria, “we don’t come from speed.” The CEO from Bilbao knows his way around electric vehicle systems: He previously worked on the development of electric buses for ten years. The transformation is already here, he is certain. 15 percent of boaters already want to go electric. There will be many more tomorrow. The future will favor Lasai because the regulations will follow.
“Our boats offer a range of more than 60 to 70 nautical miles at 7 to 8 knots,” says Gari Telleria. The boats run most efficiently between eight and twelve knots maximum speed. This is when consumption is at its lowest with the greatest range.
Success factor battery cells
The high density of the battery cells is important. Lasai works with a top ten battery manufacturer who builds the batteries according to their specifications and user profiles. “We use batteries of up to 129 Wh/k, which saves a lot of weight.”
The number of charging cycles for boats is minimal compared to electric cars. While cars or buses are charged at least once a day, a leisure boat is only on the road for a few hours a year on average. “Some shipyards put a high-voltage battery with 400 volts in the boat, which was developed for 1,000 cycles a year and which cannot yet be charged in any port,” says Gari Telleria. “But your boat doesn’t need that,” he says.
Lasai uses low and medium voltage batteries from 48 to 96 volts instead, also to minimize the risk. In addition, the requirements for the certification of high-voltage systems are much higher. “If you drive your boat to work every day like the Finns, then you need a powerful high-voltage battery,” he explains. “But if, like most people in leisure boating, you only sail an average of 40 days a year, then the benefits of a 400-volt battery are minimal. And it will be too expensive.”
A perfect balance
Another argument: “Men always want power. But it’s not about what Alfa machos need. It’s about CO2, about environmental pollution. It’s about the environment that we leave to our children,” says the family man.
A Lasai runs on solar power. The system obtains part of the electricity it needs from solar energy via the solar panels bonded to the T-Top roof. They deliver 700 W and the batteries have a capacity of up to 40 kWh. Thanks to the panels, the sun contributes around 30 percent to charging the batteries. You can drive autonomously for up to ten hours. “What people want is reach. Because they want to get out. Out to sea, with peace and quiet, without being dependent on energy,” says Telleria.
In optimal conditions with little wind and few waves, a 6-knot boat from Lasai can sail 100 nautical miles in one go. At 8 knots it is still 48 nautical miles and at full throttle 26 nautical miles. “We have the highest range at medium speed,” says the Lasai CEO. That would be a perfect balance. “We don’t want to be faster because we want to go far.” It follows that: “If you want to go fast, then a Lasai is not your boat.”
So it’s time to get on board and experience the tranquillity of the water for yourself.