Electric may be a jolt to the industry

Andy Adams

Nov 30, 2021

The Boating Ontario Conference opened yesterday in Niagara Falls and I’m actually there as you read this. I always attend anyway, but this year I have been asked to moderate a panel discussion on New Boater Education and Retention.

The focus is expected to be new boater education and resources, but it has me thinking about how difficult it is to change people’s existing beliefs and yet, how easy it is for new boating participants to embrace new technologies. Some of those new technologies may bring our industry unintended consequences. 

Last week I was invited to share my observations on the latest trends in the industry and what I saw in our future. I was a Zoom presenter at the Boating BC Conference. With the devastating B.C. wild fires of last summer being followed up by epic flooding and destruction, literally during the actual conference, the environment was clearly a major trend.

I’m not yet convinced that going electric is the right solution for the planet, but I do feel we are going there at record speed. In a recent issue of the CAA Magazine, a feature story on electric vehicles stated that in 2011 only 215 fully electric vehicles were registered in Canada. Last year that was up to 39,000 and by 2035 the federal government has mandated that all new light-duty cars and trucks must be zero-emissions vehicles.

The boat business now has many companies developing electric propulsion and last week, General Motors bought one of those fledgling electric outboard businesses. That places major resources behind the transition to electric. BRP has pledged that all their powersports equipment will have electric versions in the coming years and for the many Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo riders, electric could be a great development.

Where I see a potential major jolt to boating is that electric power for recreational boating may be very attractive to the cottage boat market and will likely involve dock-side or boathouse charging systems.

In other words, no trip to the marina is needed. Fuel sales are often important cash flow and have always brought the opportunity of additional selling to your customers, from convenience groceries and snacks at the marina to new boat sales.

What if they stop coming to the marina? They may just plug-in at home and go boating again the next day. Your relationship will quite likely loose momentum. Worse, if the electric boat does not require service for a few years (or maybe ever) there could be a major reduction in marina and dealer revenues.  

Is this a disaster in the making, or are we already short of labour, especially skilled technicians? This could greatly reduce those staffing needs. Just selling new electric boats might be the route to success.

I did my first electric boat review recently on the X-Shore Eelex 2000 and it was very quiet, powerful, easy to drive and ran without complaint, or any apparent decline in performance for an hour or more of acceleration and high-speed running out in the St. Lawrence.

Lots to consider when planning for the future.

Andy Adams – Editor

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