Startup founded by former Tesla executive develops revolutionary solar-powered boat: ‘A testament to American innovation’

Former Tesla executive John Vo is taking his electric expertise from the road to the sea.

His Florida-based Blue Innovations Group (BIG) has put its R30 on the water with the goal of providing a stylish, safe, and planet-friendly boating experience for customers, according to a report from Electrek.

What’s more, it’s Vo’s intent that the boat will pay for itself, due to low fuel, maintenance, and repair costs, he told the Catalyst in another report about the craft.

The first box regarding style is a clear check. The outside of the R30 looks sleek and futuristic. The interior carries the smooth designs inside with high-tech features, including an infotainment system, a kitchenette, and a folding “Ocean Terrace” that provides access to the water.

A bathroom and air conditioning complete the R30’s nautical comfort offering, which can hold up to 12 people, per BIG’s website.

“The R30 is a testament to American innovation,” Vo told Electrek. He added, “The R30 will provide the ultimate boating experience for customers.”

To check the “planet-friendly” box, Vo’s 30-foot cruiser has an expandable solar canopy that catches sunpower and creates shade on the deck. A 221-kilowatt-hour battery provides a “targeted nominal” eight-hour run time on a charge. The boat has an 800 horsepower dual motor powertrain, according to the R30’s specs.

Electrek reports that the boat will go up to 45 miles per hour, or 39 knots, to use seafaring nomenclature. Extended higher cruising speeds may impact runtime, per Electrek.

Vo shared some impressive plans with the Catalyst, including his intent to offer a lifetime hull warranty, and fast-charging stations that could juice up his boats within an hour.

St. Petersburg residents may have noticed an early pilot version of the R30 zooming the waters during trial runs. Vo told the Catalyst that it resembled an “engineering contraption” during those shakedowns, rather than the cool craft that’s on the market now.

“We’ve been running in the water, testing around the St. Pete Pier for quite some time,” he told the Catalyst.

The R30 has an estimated price of $300,000. Vo told the Catalyst that his boat’s advanced tech, horsepower, and other features are worth it. And, similar-sized luxury boats can cost more than $200,000, he said in the report. The plan is to eventually offer a 25-foot craft for half the price.

“You’re not going to change a whole lot of the environmental impact if only a few people can afford it,” Vo said to the Catalyst. “But … we don’t just want to make it affordable; we need to make something of value. It has to be the safest boat. It has to be fun — people buy boats because they want to have fun.”

Customers can reserve an R30 for $1,000 or $5,000. The larger down payment ensures delivery of one of BIG’s first 100 crafts, per Electrek. R30 deliveries are expected to begin in October 2024. BIG is planning to debut the boat on Dec. 16 in St. Petersburg, according to the Catalyst.

It’s part of an overall trend to electrify boats, both for personal use and for public fleets, as companies and governments join the effort to prevent planet-warming air pollution.

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