Created in 1994, the Association Française pour le Bateau Electrique (AFBE), has as its main objective to help develop the electric and hybrid propulsion boat sector. Its president Xavier de Montgros answers BoatIndustry's questions about the structure, its ambitions and its vision of the future of the electric boat.
To start, can you introduce us to the AFBE in a few words?
The AFBE was created in 1994 with the main objective of developing the electric boat sector and working to limit the obstacles to it. We are now about forty members. The association is present in 2 sectors: yachting and professional boats. It is growing with the arrival of more and more shipyards in all sectors, such as the river. We have bigger boats, faster boats.
We are also the interlocutors of professional organisations and public authorities. We are invited to participate in various working groups, such as the ISO standard on electric propulsion through AFNOR or the PAMI (Plan d'Aide à la Modernisation et à l'Innovation) of VNF for a cleaner river fleet. We are cross members of the Federation of Nautical Industries, the EcoNav network and the Maritime Cluster.
What are your relationships with major yacht builders?
We know that groups like Bénéteau are starting to think again about electric boats. Our objective is to bring the big projects with us. Today, the major electric motor manufacturers and battery manufacturers are becoming our members.
What is France's place in the electric boat?
Today, 2 countries, the Netherlands and Norway, are taking the lead. France also has the means to do so. So something must be done!
What changes do you see in the type of boat?
We're starting to get bigger and faster. The next step is therefore the playfulness in boating with water skiing and this type of application. We also have the example of Naviwatt's Zen Pro for the management of marinas and cleaning robots. On the professional side, until now we were more on boats with between 12 and 100 passengers and we are moving towards larger units and freight.
What are the future technical developments in electric boats?
We are already moving towards a more efficient use of existing technologies. Secondly, the new batteries allow for a higher energy density (NDLR: ratio between the battery capacity and its weight, an essential element for the autonomy of a boat whose purpose is not only to carry its batteries) and a reduction in prices. The reduction of charging time is also an important factor. The perception of the autonomy of electric boats is also difficult to change beyond technology.
How do you respond to critics of the electric boat who criticize battery pollution?
A Lithium battery has a life span of 4000 cycles to lose 20% of its recharging capacity. That takes about 10 years. It then has a stationary life to balance the electricity grid linked to renewable energies for 10 to 15 years. Then, the cells can be opened, the films unwound and immersed in baths to recover the essential metals. The process is known, but its industrialisation will only happen later when there are enough batteries to recycle. Today, lead batteries still represent 90% of the volume to be treated. It is necessary to think about the complete lifetime.