Electric PWC – First Pics, More Details

As I noted in a previous post, a recent electric-engine PWC project has caught my attention, in large part because of the two people behind it — freeride champ Ross Champion and Kommander Industries (and legendary tuner/builder) Steve Webster. Since then I had the opportunity to conduct a lengthy interview with the pair. Here are some of my thoughts that stand out from that interview.

23rd March 2010.
By Jeff Hemmel

Ross Champion, Steve Webster With Their Electric PWC

The pictures are distant, and lack detail, but one thing is readily apparent — that’s no internal combustion engine under the hood of the above personal watercraft.

Instead, it’s electric, the first somewhat close-up look at a project I noted in a previous post, an electric PWC from startup CWEcoSPort. The project has caught my attention in large part because of the two people behind it — freeride champ Ross Champion and Kommander Industries (and legendary tuner/builder) Steve Webster. Following my initial talk with Champion, I recently got the opportunity to interview both he and Webster, as well as get these first photos of the boat itself. Here are some of my thoughts that stand out from that interview, more of which will be detailed in my upcoming story for Powersports Business.

First and foremost, both men argue that the concept of an electric PWC is far more fact than fiction. While many naysayers say it’s a far-off pipe dream, Champion and Webster both contend that the money and attention being put into EV at the moment is rapidly making the idea a reality. After Champion initially pitched the idea, Webster did his own research. “It became very clear that it was absolutely plausible and that we should do something,” he told me, “create a product that I think people could really appreciate.”

While some may question an electric motor in a marine environment, Champion thinks they’re a great fit. One reason will be very familiar to freestyle and freeride enthusiasts — water ingestion. By removing an internal combustion engine’s need for continuous air flow, builders can more effectively seal up the engine compartment. Webster also notes that electric engines have one basic, very reliable moving part, and states the obvious: “If you can create something that has less moving parts, your reliability factor goes up exponentially.”

Still, they’re the first to admit they’re in the learning stages. “The electric motor makes a completely different type of power than the internal combustion engine does,” says Webster. “So there was definitely some learning curve to determine how we were going to transfer the type of power the electric motor makes, how we were going to convert that into speed and power through a jet pump. Quite honestly we’re still working and making it better, increasing the efficiency of the whole system.

“But the electric motors make a tremendous amount of torque immediately, whereas the gasoline engine has to create a certain amount of horsepower before they begin to create torque, and typically that’s at a much higher horsepower than a gasoline engine. Most electric motors will create the majority of their torque almost instantly. So you kind of have to go back to the drawing board of how you think of the relationship between the pump, the impeller, and the compression nozzle, and how you’re going to make all that work to reach the goals you’re trying to achieve.”

With EV technology so popular right now, however, technology is moving fast, improving at exponential rates. Webster says advancements are seen on almost a weekly basis.

“The technology is moving so rapidly,” says Webster. “People have always been able to create tremendous power with electric, but now weight is coming down. There’s a big push globally. It’s pretty exciting to see when you embed yourself into that industry.”

Yes, it’s disappointing from a journalist’s standpoint that the pair aren’t making any grand claims, but that actually makes me take them more seriously. “I don’t want to make claims that we can’t back up,” explains Champion. “What we’ve built now, this isn’t a product we want to sell. It’s built as a proof of concept, really to prove to ourselves if it worked. And because it did work, and worked well, we decided to pursue it.

“The next iteration of this system is going to be different, and when we feel we have something that is a commercially viable product, then I’m more than happy to talk about what it does and how it does it.”

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About the author:

Jeff Hemmel

Jeff Hemmel writes for boats.com, Boating, PersonalWatercraft.com, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon...and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water," received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel's website.

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