Images: Taiga Motors
Montreal startup Taiga Motors has spent the last few years tackling the tricky task of electrifying snowmobiles, but it’s now turning its attention to making cleaner and quieter personal watercraft. The company unveiled a pricey new Jet Ski-style watercraft called Orca at an event in Toronto Tuesday night that can last for up to two hours on a full charge.
The Orca has a top speed of 65 miles per hour, and has 134kW of power (about 180 horsepower) on offer, which sounds like it will make for a fun ride. The 23kWh battery can be charged on standard or level 2 (240V) outlets, or more quickly with a DC fast charger (from 0 to 80 percent in 20 minutes), provided owners can find one of those near enough to the water (or with enough space to fit a truck and trailer).
Taiga Motors says it’s gone to great lengths to build a battery back that not only can withstand the punishment of riding at up to 65 miles per hour on open water, but one that won’t lose its overall capacity when stowed away for the winter. It also won’t require owners to suffer through the time-consuming “winterization” process, since there are fewer moving parts. All Orcas will come with a five-year, 20,000 kilometer (roughly 12,427 miles) warranty.
The Orca has a waterproof digital display between the handlebars, where riders can tap into what sounds like a fair bit of technology, like GPS maps, LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios, information from embedded water temperature sensors, and feeds from onboard cameras and a sonar unit. And it wouldn’t be a modern mobility machine without a companion smartphone app and the ability to accept over-the-air updates, both of which Taiga Motors promises will accompany the Orca.
None of this comes cheap, though, as Taiga Motors is targeting a whopping $24,000 for the Orca when it goes into production in 2020. (For reference, Kawasaki sells Jet Ski-branded watercraft that range between roughly $10,000 and $18,000.) Following in the footsteps of automotive startups like Tesla and NIO, Taiga Motors will also sell a more expensive “founders edition” Orca for $28,000 that features unspecified “exclusive design elements and high-performance packages.”
Some of that price comes from the fact that the Orca’s body is made completely out of carbon fiber, which Taiga Motors likely had to employ to help keep the weight down. Even with carbon fiber, the Orca weighs in at 580 pounds — with nearly half (275 pounds) coming from the battery alone. Those who do buy an Orca will at least be able to customize pretty much everything about its appearance, from the watercraft’s colors, to its finish, to the shade and texture of the deck mat.
Taiga Motors isn’t likely to find a huge audience for a $24,000 personal watercraft, and even if it did, manufacturing in high volume can be a huge drain on a small company’s resources. So Taiga Motors says it will build just 400 standard Orcas, and including the founders edition, only 500 will be made in total. The startup says it’s already planning next-generation electric watercraft that start at under $14,000, and claims it’s developing both inboard and outboard electric motors.
Taiga Motors isn’t the only company wading into the electric personal watercraft space, but most others haven’t yet left the concept phase. (In fact, the most high-profile one to appear before the Orca’s announcement came earlier this year from electric truck startup Nikola Motor Company, which only showed off its concept after acquiring another startup in this space.)
But if Taiga Motors sticks to this ambitious timeline, it may be one of the first to pull off the idea — a fact the startup sounds very aware of. “This is the first step in Taiga’s mission to accelerate mass market adoption of electric alternatives,” the company writes in a press release. “Owners of an Orca will proudly hold their place in history as having led the transition towards better watersports.”