Look for autonomous boats and electric power in Brunswick's future. Photo: Mercury Marine

Big-Name Electric Boats Coming by 2023

You may not know the name Brunswick Corporation, but you certainly know its boating brands—think Mercury engines, boats like Boston Whaler and Sea Ray, parts and accessories like MotorGuide and Lenco, and Freedom Boat Club.

At its Investor Day 2021, Brunswick announced its ambitious plans for the future of boat manufacturing, and they revolve around the company’s ACES framework (an acronym for Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared).

If that framework sounds parallel to a car company, you’re right. For example, Brunswick has collaborated with Carnegie Robotics to develop “autonomy products in the recreational marine space.” Brunswick plans to launch its first Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) later this year.  (Volvo released a self-docking system late last year.)

Brunswick’s Advanced Systems Group integrates its engines into the operating systems of the boats they power, as seen in the Mercury Marine brand. Yes, some of us still run skiffs with portable outboards clamped to the transoms, but larger rigs are becoming more and more connected internally, just like our cars and trucks.

Also like the auto industry, marine manufacturers are seriously working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through electrification. Brunswick notes that “by 2023, Mercury and ASG together will launch five electric propulsion products, with the first products launching in 2022. And Brunswick Boat Group will have launched electric boats in four different segments.” Mercury also plans to reduce “outboard engine emissions 80 percent by 2025,” notably from a baseline of 2007, the year after the first EPA clean air regulations went fully into effect for outboards. 

The Advanced Systems Group is also working on increased adoption of lithium-ion battery technology for both propulsion and on-board house systems. Over the next several years, ASG expects to install 15,000 advanced Fathom e-Power Mastervolt lithium-ion battery systems that replace internal combustion engine generators with circuit power up to 48 volts. This will be ASG’s First Wave, low voltage power storage and delivery for “house loads” and low horsepower propulsion by 2023. Further into the decade, the Next Wave will offer high voltage power storage and delivery for high horsepower propulsion.

The already successful Freedom Boat Club also has plans for innovation within the ACES framework. It will introduce electric boats in applications where they make sense. 

While Brunswick’s fabric of synergies is remarkably broad, other marine companies are moving in similar directions, all to the benefit of us in the boating public.  Bay Bulletin will keep an eye on all the developments that will impact the next boat you buy.

John Page Williams