Leading the Charge in Electric Mobility for Boats

Steve Trkla

boat gear
Torqeedo’s Steve Trkla shares how electric mobility has evolved from a “future marine technology” to today’s technology for electric powered boats [Podcast]

Anchors AweighAnchors Aweigh Boating Podcast is a podcast for all boaters, from aspiring to experienced. Featuring in-depth conversations with boating experts and industry leaders, and packed full of tips, tricks, gear, and industry info, boaters of all levels will come away with new skills and knowledge each episode.

As climate change becomes a bigger issue for boaters every year (see boat damage from this year’s storms as exhibit A), there are many companies looking for solutions that will help slow down this process while also enabling boaters to continue using the waterways in powered vessels.

Electric mobility is one of the top solutions and I was fortunate to speak with Steve Trkla, President of Torqeedo Inc.

Torqeedo is the market leader for electric mobility on the water. Founded in 2005 in Starnberg, the company develops and manufactures outboards and inboards, electric motors and hybrid drive systems ranging from 1 to 80 hp. There are also all sorts of functional and innovative accessories – from lithium batteries and solar charging equipment to smartphone apps.

Steve has been with Torqeedo for a decade and has been responsible for launching Torqeedo products in the North American market, from Travel to Deep Blue. His wide-ranging experience in sales and marketing in the high-tech sector and his excellent feel for trends in the nautical industry have reaped great success for Torqeedo in the USA and Canada.

Besides leading the US team and acquiring new customers, Steve has ensured Torqeedo’s constant presence in the media in North America and helped us achieve a strong market presence within a short period.

Before joining Torqeedo, Steve worked as sales director for a number of Silicon Valley start-ups, helping them achieve sales and growth. His understanding of IT products led him to Red Oak Marketing, a provider of online marketing strategies in the marine industry. And from there it was just one small step to Torqeedo.

Steve and I spoke about when he joined the boating lifestyle, innovations in electric mobility, and some of the ways Torqeedo is leading the charge towards more environmentally friendly boating.

Be sure to click on links to listen to the full podcast interview at the end!

His boating past

I have not been a lifelong boater. When I went off to college I met a very good friend who was an avid fisherman and boater and I ended up really enjoying it. He had different boating options as our friendship grew but the first time it was a Lund-style fishing boat on Lake Jennie in Minnesota. Later he taught me how to water-ski and after that we did some fishing on Lake Michigan out of Manitowoc-Two Rivers Wisconsin.

Learning to handle a boat

I was always a passenger and it really wasn’t until my younger brother and I bought our first boat together that was the first time that I started driving a boat by myself. It was a Four Winns family style boat. We had that where I boat today which is the Chain O’Lakes about 45 minutes outside of Chicago.

It’s been since Torqeedo that I really had to learn how to operate a boat on my own. I didn’t take courses. We had several demo boats that we show to customers so more and more I was taking advantage of using the boats.

At first, driving and operating the boats was somewhat simple. Learning the etiquette on the water was somewhat simple. Where I found it to be the most nerve-wracking is when you bring it into a dock and need to tie it around other boats and people are watching. And so that took a little more building confidence but each time you get better and better and eventually you get to a point that it becomes second nature.

Learning boating etiquette

The Chain O’Lakes is a great lake to learn etiquette because when you have a series of lakes that’s just 45 minutes outside a city of six million you have one of the most active boating waterways that there is in the country. You learn it quickly – and that is knowing how to show intention when you’re on the water and there are lots of different boats on the water, knowing how to keep distances from kayakers and fishermen, knowing what’s right and wrong in no wake zones when you’re going through the channels.

The growth of the electric mobility market

It has been an evolution. Back in 2007 when we had our one motor which was the Travel 801, it was a revolution at the time. It was all so new to the marine industry so what you found back then is most of the consumers would come up and go, ‘is that electric’? And a year or two would go by and those same customers would go, ‘that’s the future’.

My favorite part this year was at the Annapolis Boat Show, the amount of customers that were coming to our booth that knew everything about Torqeedo, and how many customers had bought our systems and told us how much they love what we’re doing. It really was a ten year progression of ‘what is this’ to ‘that’s the future’ to ‘its here’.

Common misconceptions about electric mobility

There has always been this term ’Range Anxiety’ – how long and how fast can you really go with an electric motor. Those were the early misconceptions.

When people thought of electric motors they thought of the trolling motor market, they didn’t think of it as something that was competing in the horsepower class against the gas motor market. That is changing as technology is continuing to change and electric is so much more mainstream. That is probably the biggest misconception, the speeds and range electric motors can give you.

How marine mobility compares to other markets

he greatest driver is the auto industry, the second is the e-bicycle market. If you look at marine, the industry and acceptance is matching that of where the auto industry was ten years ago and bicycle industry was five years ago.

Technology driving the business

Over the last two years one of the great innovations and revolutions of the marine industry for electric mobility is the lithium battery technology. We invested in some of the best battery management system technology to ensure that we have the safest units on the market today. We do produce on the low-power range our own lithium batteries.

The partnership with BMW has been a wonderful opportunity. We’re able to take their automotive lithium battery technology in the high-power segment and marine grade the battery. You have the shock mitigation, the venting, the waterproofing and the cell management system.

Growth opportunities for electric mobility

We started with the Travel series of motors as recreational solutions. Then we attacked the ‘green lake’ market with our line of cruise motors. And then we moved into the paddle sports industry with our Ultralight systems. All of that was a retail product.

In 2012 we announced our first high power system, the Deep Blue. And we really ventured for the first time into the commercial segment of the market and that’s when our growth took an even steeper increase. Going forward, the significant growth that is expected over the next five years is in the project sales and commercial side.

Prop technology as part of the solution

What we learned from the beginning was that we had such great motor design and such high torque motors we needed to build our prop design to match the power of the motor. So each one of our systems has a unique prop that goes with that system so that we maximize the efficiency of the motor and in some cases we set world records for efficiency in water.

Boating advice received and given

First and foremost, and I’ve been told this by several people, is to always wear a life jacket. No matter what I do wear my life jacket. The second thing is take care of what you purchase!

Note: I am so excited about the potential Torqeedo has to help make boating a more environmentally friendly activity that we have signed on to become Torqeedo dealers out of our marina. Check out www.torqeedo.com to see if there is an electric marine solution for you!

Listen to the full Podcast:

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Listen on iTunes: Steve Trkla – December 10, 2017 (free)

Listen on Google Play: Steve Trkla – December 10, 2017 (free)

or Click Play below to listen online here:

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Matt O'Hara

View posts by Matt O'Hara
Matt O’Hara is the owner, along with his wife Rebecca, of Freedom Boat Club Lake George and the Queen Boat Co marina. After a 10-year career in media sales in Boston, MA Matt and Rebecca decided to relocate and open their own Freedom Boat Club, where they could share their love of boating and Lake George by helping others get on the water. The best part of the new career has been the joy they see families having on the water day in and day out, making memories that will last a lifetime. Matt has combined his background in media with his move to the boating industry to launch Anchors Aweigh, a podcast for boaters.

1 Comment

  1. bayrokDecember 13, 2017

    Spot on: I am one of the many people who became interested in electric boating only after a couple of years enjoying my electric car, and I suspect that millions more will follow…

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