Former Tesla exec launches firm to build electric boats
Quite a few former Tesla execs have moved on to establish their own EV-related firms (see Lucid, Proterra, Xcelerate, et al). The latest alum to make his mark is John Vo, the former Manufacturing Chief at Tesla, who recently formed a company to manufacture electric boats.
Above: Blue Innovation Groups R30 electric boat (Image: Blue Innovations Group).
Blue Innovations Group has established a manufacturing site in Pinellas Park, Florida (part of the St Petersburg/Tampa Bay metro area). The company demonstrated its hull, propulsion system and user interface at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its plan is to begin production in October, and to start delivering boats by Q2 2024.
BIG’s first product, the R30, is a 30-foot electric power boat with dual motors that deliver a combined 800 hp (600 kW), a liquid-cooled 221 kWh battery pack, and extendable solar panels that can deliver up to 2.7 kW of solar power for recharging. Maximum speed is expected to be around 39 knots.
Mr. Vo plainly means to apply some of the strategies and tactics he learned at Tesla. The R30, which is expected to carry a price tag around $300,000, is very much a luxury boat, but it sounds like more mass-market models are planned for the future. “To really impact the environment, you can’t build electric boats by the dozens,” he told Electrek. “It has to be by the thousands.”
He has also spoken of using a structurally integrated battery as part of the boat’s frame, and plans to use an LFP battery chemistry, which should deliver a longer lifespan than NMC or NCA. “So it’s a little bit bigger battery with slightly lower energy density. I have the space—it’s a boat.”
After Vo left Tesla in 2017, he went to Lordstown Motors, where he and several other executives drew some unwanted attention from the SEC for illegal short-term stock transactions. “I like to forget about that,” Vo told the Tampa Bay Times, adding that he lost $1 million on his investments in Lordstown.
Vo chose to launch BIG in the Tampa Bay area instead of Silicon Valley because of its boating culture and changing demographics. “Maybe I’m speculating, but I see the transition of technology development in the Tampa area coming from tourists, retirees, and how the people from different geographies are changing the type of economy,” Vo told the Times. “It’s a perfect place to market a boat because people here will buy a boat. And it’s going to be much more competitive with cost of living versus San Francisco.”