In an exclusive interview with PBR, Alex Bamberg, CEO of AQUA superPower, speaks about his company’s aims and the effects he predicts his rapid-recharging systems will have on e-mobility and the marine market in general.
AQUA superPower are being hailed as the first company to design and install a marine fast-charging network across Europe. The company’s fully funded business model means it will own and operate the connected AQUA network of rapid smart chargers as well as using its own cloud-based back-office system to provide secure access to a range of user functionalities. Forward-thinking marina owners and port operators, such as MDL here in the UK, are already jumping on board with a view to helping to drive the switch from fossil-based power to electric power as part of their decarbonisation programmes and to help reduce the impact of motor-orientated boating on the marine environment.
The growing AQUA superPower network will be accessible to marine users via the AQUA secure app or RFID card, which will likewise enable users to view a map showing charger options and offering navigational aids to guide them to their chosen location. But the key aspect, of course, is the chargers themselves, which are capable of providing rapid and reliable 25kW – 150kW DC recharging for both leisure and commercial craft. From herein, we let Alex Bamberg, CEO of AQUA superPower, take up the story …
Alex, can you give a little insight into how and when your company launched into the e-charge market and what type of investment has been required to achieve this?
We have a highly successful history in the automotive sector, owning and operating the second-largest DC public network and infrastructure in the UK. That business was acquired by Engie in 2019, and shortly after that I was approached by Stewart Wilkinson, the founder and chairman of Vita Yachts. As a strong environmentalist with significant investment, he joined AQUA in the mission to decarbonise the marine environment. I brought my senior team with me, and we are now transferring the wealth of our knowledge and experience in the EV sector to develop the world’s first marine fast-charge network.
The success of your AQUA superPower rapid-recharging units and their rollout depends upon establishing willing location partners. How challenging is this process?
We have some very forward-thinking real estate partners and we have some where we are still raising awareness of climate change challenges. In some countries and regions, demand is driven by regulation and environmental targets. We see future carrot-and-stick legislation appearing across the globe to encourage emissions reduction. But in the meantime, in the UK, we have just formalised an agreement with MDL Marinas, which is very exciting indeed. This is part of our mission to reduce the impact of boating on the marine environment and to help marina owners with the switch to electric power as part of their decarbonisation efforts.
From the consumer’s standpoint, though, when you’re asking them to make significant investment in an electric boat, you want to assure them they can have the charging that suits their lifestyle. Access to a charging infrastructure that offers a reliable plug-and-charge experience offering features such as charge point visibility is essential for people if they are to develop the confidence to transition away from liquid carbon fuels. This is why AQUA superPower are developing their dedicated marine fast-charge network that will be accessible to the likes of MDL marina users via the AQUA secure app or RFID card.
The success of AQUA depends on the success of marine e-power becoming a genuinely relevant marine power option. How long, in your view, until we see battery technology becoming a serious alternative to fossil fuels in terms of offering offshore and seagoing vessels a genuine solution too?
In many respects, the solution is here right now for certain use cases. I believe that over the course of 2022–23, there will be some significant product available to the market without apologies from a performance perspective and bringing all the benefits of being powered by sustainable energy.
Some might argue that AQUA are recharging a technology that, in itself, is far from green. What are your views on the issues of battery components and the matter of battery afterlife in relation to the wider sustainable ‘green’ issue?
The first issue is that an electric drivetrain is between 60 and 90 per cent more efficient over 1 kilometre, regardless of whether the power generation is from renewables or not. When you bring local emissions into this fact, the electric drivetrain has powerful arguments in its favour. The battery technology is varied. Essentially, between 30 and 90 per cent of the battery can be recycled. Additionally, when the powertrain e-mobility user efficiency drops, this battery can be, and is being, used within its second life for stationary applications, such as grid support and/or home energy. It is our intention that all AQUA chargers will use low-carbon renewable energy.
The locations your company have secured installations within to date are undoubtedly key/high-profile boating centres. What are your aims and goals in terms of rollout over the course of the next five years?
AQUA’s strategy is to supply robust, high-speed charging to commercial/workboat and recreational users internationally. We will naturally have some regions that are more leisure orientated and others that are dominated by the commercial maritime industry. The latter, though, is of massive interest to us, as industry duty cycles are set to make a bigger and more positive impact on the environment during their process of transition.
Illustrating the benefit
The AQUA superPower network of fast chargers for electric boats sees each station being built to IP65 standard, providing dual simultaneous DC charging up to 75kW, allowing electric boats to rapidly recharge and extend their autonomy.
The company claims that the benefit of adopting marine e-mobility can be illustrated by the case of, say, a 10m dayboat, powered by a diesel engine with 480L of diesel in its tank, likely generating approximately 1290kg of CO2 on a typical day out. In comparison, an average family car might generate the same amount of CO2 over the course of three months.
MDL Marinas partner with AQUA superPower
Delivering on their commitment to tackle air pollution and reduce carbon emissions, MDL Marinas have partnered with AQUA superPower to install electric boat chargers at five of their marinas, becoming the first UK marina group to offer an electric boat-charging solution.
Having recently launched their Green Strategy, the new electric charging points to be installed at their Cobb’s Quay, Hamble Point, Sparkes, Windsor and Ocean Village marinas are a major step forward in MDL’s mission to become the UK’s most sustainable marina group, developing a culture of environmental awareness and care among their customers and teams.
‘We recognised that for the electric boat market to grow, it’s essential that a charging network is developed to service these boats,’ said Tim Mayer, Sales and Marketing Director at MDL. ‘We’re delighted to be partnering with AQUA superPower to be able to support people wishing to make their boating more sustainable by offering rapid charging for electric boats across our marinas.’
Michael Glanville, Managing Director at MDL, added: ‘We’ve chosen to join forces with AQUA superPower, not just because we believe they have developed the best marine electric charging solution at this time, but because their mission aligns with our aim to help reduce the impact of boating on the marine environment.’
Tim Mayer continued: ‘This is just the first step in tackling marine and air pollution in line with our new Green Strategy, but we’ve put our head above the parapet and are investing heavily for the good of the environment and the boating industry. We’re also looking forward to working with local authorities and other marine companies to further increase the electric boat charging infrastructure, allowing the marine industry to evolve in the most sustainable way possible.’
European AQUA superPower recharger locations
Venice – 1 charger
Portofino – 1 charger
Ventimiglia – 1 charger
Monte Carlo – 2 chargers
Cannes – 2 first-generation chargers, due to be upgraded to second-generation chargers as per Monaco
Saint-Tropez – 1 charger
For more information visit www.aqua-superpower.com