For decades, watercrafts have largely improved instead of evolved. While new classes of crafts have been added, generally innovation has been in construction or materials, not radical new ideas. But a new concept, the personal electric hydrofoil, is showing increasing popularity... And might for many boat builders be a future class of vehicle.
A hydrofoil is a boat that uses lifting surfaces underneath the water to push up the watercraft. As the craft gains speed, it rises, reducing how much of the hull rests on the water and offering faster speeds and reduced drag. While commercial foils have been on the market since the 1950s, they haven't seen much commercial success outside of serving in Russia and Asia as passenger vessels for ferry lines.
A Slovenian company, though, Quadrofoil, has seen the potential in small personal foils. Quadrofoil has rebuilt the hydrofoil from the ground up, starting with C-shaped lifting surfaces that allow the craft to rise out of the water at much slower speeds, as slow as 6.5 knots per hour. It's crafted out of ultralight composite material and built with a hollow hull to decrease weight even further. The hull also serves as a safety feature, giving the foils buoyancy so they won't sink if they lose power.
Most interesting, though, is the fact that both of Quadrofoil's current models are entirely electric and powered on batteries. That means severely reduced noise, and paired with the fact that the craft is light and barely touches the water at speed, in theory it would allow users to go into much more serene areas while abiding by environmental preservation rules. That would open up pleasure boating to a much larger number of potential boat users, and the relatively low prices of $28,000 and up offer surprising affordability compared to other craft. So are foils the future, and how will they affect the industry?
The hydrofoil is amazing technology, but is it the future?
There's no denying that greener boating is on the horizon if the industry wants to stay competitive, and foils may offer a way to both meet the needs of a greener world and bring in new customers. One of the key struggles with greener, electric-only boats has been capturing the same sense of speed and fun as motors powered by fossil fuels.
That said, there are a few challenges that need to be addressed. For example, foils generally need sharp edges, which potentially causes issues with marine life, and the higher costs associated with engineering the foils have put off some boat building companies. There are also maintenance challenges that some hydrofoil craft may have that Quadrofoil has been addressing, such as making it simple to detach and swap out the foils on the marina to offer different functionality and make repairs a simpler matter for both owners and boat repair teams.
Still, these new models may offer a new way for the boat building industry to bring in new customers and offer new experiences. And if the engineering challenges can be taken on, the future of watercraft might well lie in foils under the surface.