The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is getting a taste of boating’s future, thanks to several exhibits showcasing the latest and future technology. Volvo Penta, Brunswick Corp., Navier and Candela are all displaying leading-edge designs in Las Vegas—with the closest boating destination, Lake Mead, hours away—to show the tech world that boating isn’t just a gas-guzzling hobby stuck in the past.
“A lot of people don’t consider the amount of technology in the marine industry,” says Dave Foulkes, CEO of Brunswick Corp., the world’s largest boat and engine builder. Brunswick’s Mercury Marine division displayed its new Avator 48V electric outboard, a new electric boat line called Veer, and its Fathom e-Power system. The coolest item is a fully interactive display that allows visitors to pilot a boat virtually through a boating twilight, with controls and a massive 140-degree-wide screen adding to the realism.
“This is actually more than an interactive entertainment platform,” says Foulkes. “We can introduce a combination of virtual challenges—docks and other boats in unusual lighting situations—that aren’t easy to replicate in the physical world. We’ll then use that data in the autonomous systems we’re developing.”
Having first displayed in 2020, Brunswick attended CES virtually over the last two years, but came back this year with a larger exhibit that includes the new tech as well as a Sea Ray 370 cruiser with four Mercury outboards. At the entrance is a 600- p V12 Mercury Verado, the industry’s largest outboard towering 11 feet above the ground. “We figured it would be excellent for selfies,” says Foulkes.
Volvo Penta, a big competitor with Mercury Marine, has been another company investing heavily in new technology. In 2022, it attended CES virtually, introducing its new “assisted-docking” platform. “This year, we’re bringing visitors to the Arctic, where they will get a glimpse of what it feels like to experience near-silent boating in the Svalbard archipelago—thanks to our advanced hybrid electric system,” says Johan Inden, president of Volvo Penta Marine.
The company last summer delivered Kvitbjørn, a fully electric 50-foot cruiser to Svalbard. The display will re-create the experience of cruising the polar regions on a near-silent electric boat. “They’ll also be able to explore the unique technology that powers this unique experience—less than 800 miles from the North Pole,” says Inden.
While Vegas is a far cry from the North Pole, the Swedish company has traveled to CES because it has been “the launchpad of countless technologies,” according to Inden. Volvo’s forward-looking exhibit on boating of the future—which includes artificial islands, autonomous boats and even boat-to-boat electric charging—should also give it street cred in the tech world when it comes to combining sustainability with an easier life on the water.
Another Swedish builder, Candela Yachts, is displaying its C-8 electric foiling boat at CES this year. Candela’s Mikael Mahlberg says the C-8 is a “game-changer” for sustainable boating. “Although it’s a boat, under its carbon-fiber skin it’s actually a robot,” he says. “One that performs a series of actions automatically to ensure a smooth flight in all conditions.”
US competitor Navier, which has completed its 30-foot electric foiling yacht, is also exhibiting at CES for the first time this year. The N-30 will have a top speed of 30 knots, and at 20 knots, its range is an impressive 70 miles.
The two foiling rigs are the two best examples of boating’s future that are available now. Both companies expect to attract non-boating converts to the brand. “Many Candela buyers are early adopters of tech—influential people in the tech space that probably wouldn’t even have considered buying a noisy, gas-guzzling powerboat in the first place,” he says.
Currying a tech image is critical for these companies to separate themselves from the “old” boating world. Brunswick Corp. announced at CES that it would be changing its logo and tagline. The old tagline, “Innovation and Inspiration on the Water,” has been replaced by the much more generic but forward-looking, “Next Never Rests.”
And it definitely sounds a lot cooler.