Electrified future for marine propulsion
Endless rows of neatly packed booths covered the floors of the Tampa Bay Convention Center. Tucked into a section of displays on the second floor of one of the marine industry’s largest conventions, IBEX, Bo Bae Eun waited expectantly for the investor who would “power up” his marine electric propulsion company’s future.
Eun works on the sales team for Leo Greentier Marines, (LGM). Leo Motors, a South Korean company that specializes in electrifying propulsion, acquired the company in 2013.
Eun said the founder of LGM entered the market because he saw it as less saturated with competitors. The company’s strategy is to find areas that prohibit internal combustion engines and to look for governments that provide subsidies to citizens for switching to electrical propulsion.
He said LGM’s competitive edge in the electric propulsion market is found in its in-house manufacturing of lithium batteries.
“Usually an electric propulsion system company doesn't make batteries by themselves, they just buy bulk from another company,” Eun said. “But we have LG Chem, the biggest company in the world about manufacturing lithium batteries.”
According to marine industry trends, demand for outboard propulsion is outpacing expectations. Trade Only Today cited a supply shortage for both Yamaha and Mercury Marine in 2018 due to increased demand for outboard propulsion.
While Eun hopes to capitalize on the increased demand for outboards with the introduction of ecologically conscientious propulsion technology, others within the industry are less optimistic about the market’s readiness for innovation.
Walter Ross, a senior product manager at Mercury Marine, believes there’s a future for electrical propulsion, but that that future is not beginning anytime within sight.
“We are one hundred percent all about sustainability, how can we build a product that is going to be around and not contribute to climate change? Going all electric is an option, but you have to engineer it correctly to have a solution that is truly viable,” Ross said. “We will have something there when it is manufacturable and is affordable and is actually what the customer wants.”
Affordability seems to be the primary barrier to entry for Eun and LGM electrical propulsion technology. Eun sees the electrical propulsion market growing significantly over time due to the demand for environmentally conscientious technology. However, an immediate influx of capital is necessary if LGM ever plans to survive to see that future.
By Jessica Lykins