By Ellen Forman
When one thinks of a performance powerboat, what comes to mind is a big, gas-guzzling engine: lots of speed, lots of fuel consumption and lots of noise.
Voltari, with U.S. headquarters based in Fort Lauderdale, is launching a fully EV-powered, environmentally friendly performance craft at this week’s Miami International Boat Show. It’s fresh off a successful 91-mile test run from Key Largo to Bimini on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery, believed to be the first fully-electric performance boat to cross through the Gulfstream.
With Voltari, founder and CEO Cam Heaps and his partner, company president Tim Martou, hope to pave the way for fully electric power boating. It’s a big opportunity. According to ResearchAndMarkets, the electric boat market was valued at $5 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach $16.6 billion by 2031.
“The two worst parts of boating,” Heaps said, “are purchasing fuel and paying for service. We want to take this movement to fully electric mobility, the movement to zero emissions and reduction of impact on the climate, and make it fun.”
An entrepreneurial hobbyist follows his curiosity to the water
Voltari is a new entry into a world dominated by big boat engines. Heaps has owned and sailed many of those boats himself. As a kid visiting Miami, he dreamed of owning boats – and later, as co-founder of Toronto’s wildly successful Steam Whistle Brewing, he could make the dream happen.
When he started to buy boats in 2008, they were mostly Cigarette boats, speedboats, and the like. It wasn’t long before his entrepreneurial curiosity went to work on boat construction. Boats are traditionally built of fiberglass, a durable but heavy material. What if parts of the boat could be built with something lighter and more durable? He and co-founder Martou began to learn about the carbon fiber being used in Formula One racing cars, a product that proved to be both stronger and lighter than fiberglass. They started ripping out and replacing parts of boats with that material, testing their experiments out in the open ocean.
They founded Carbon Marine in Canada in 2015 to develop advanced carbon fiber hull construction. Along the way, they started to explore the potential of a battery-driven boat, which led them to LTS Marine in Montreal, founded by a pair of water skiers who were retrofitting boats with electric motors.
When they test drove that boat, the experience was transformational.
The company purchased LTS and incorporated the technology. Years of tests and development later, the Voltari 260 puts some of the 2,000 pounds of hull weight saved by using carbon fiber into huge lithium iron batteries.
Getting a boat to Bimini
Last October, the team came up with the idea of doing a photo shoot for the boat in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas. But there was the matter of getting there.
After doing some calculations, the team realized that they could make it from South Florida to Bimini. With Heaps and his director of innovation in the Voltari 260 and several other company leaders in a chase boat, they left Key Largo on January 19, 2023 at 12:30 a.m., entered the Gulfstream and sailed through the night.
While the boat can go as fast as 55 mph, they sailed at a crawl – 5 mph – to maximize longevity of the battery, Heaps said. “We watched the sun rise, and the same day, shortly after sunset, we could see the lights of Bimini,” Heaps said.
Completing the crossing was a close call.
“There were a couple of points in the journey when we thought, this was just going to be a first attempt. We literally pulled in with 1 or 2 percent of a charge remaining,” he said. “But at that moment, when she really got us there, we knew we would never look at that boat the same way again, that a new way of boating, not lining up for gas, not making noise or emissions – it was real.”
A better power boating experience, a wider EV future.
The Voltari 260 measures 26 feet long and 8 feet wide, can carry up to 11 passengers, with a 740 HP motor, and its batteries hold a charge of 142 kWh hours of power. It has a draw of 31 inches, making it maneuverable in shallow waters.
With the Voltari 260 priced at $450,000, Heaps expects its initial owners are likely to be environmentally conscious, high net worth EV enthusiasts who already own battery-powered cars such as the Tesla, and want to take the technology to the water. Voltari’s technology can be maintained remotely, similar to Tesla’s, another positive for time-conscious individuals.
Voltari is setting up its U.S. headquarters at Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, the storied yacht center now in the process of redevelopment. Heaps plans to expand its office spaces and add a showroom, eventually hiring as many as 30 to 50 individuals to create a full brand experience.
With manufacturing remaining at two sites in Canada for now, the company has capacity to build 32 boats in 2023.
“Long term,” he said, “we hope to be the leader in marine EV.”
The VOLTARI 260 will debut to the public at the Herald Plaza (Booth HP129) during the Miami International Boat Show, taking place Feb. 15-19 throughout Miami and Miami Beach.
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