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Chinese startup raises funds for electric boat motors

ePropulsion leverages green trend for quiet, nonpolluting engines

ePropulsion is the world’s second-largest maker of electric outboard motors for small boats, shipping more than 6,000 units last year. (Photo courtesy of the company)

BEIJING -- ePropulsion Technology, a Chinese startup that makes electric motors for small boats, has raised more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) in a Series B funding round led by Shenzhen OCT Huaxin Equity Investment Management.

Other investors included Shenzhen HTI and Dongguan Financial Holdings.

Founder and CEO Danny Tao and three other founding members from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology began researching electric outboard motors in 2012. The company was registered in 2014 at Songshan Lake Science and Technology Industrial Park in Dongguan, in Guangdong Province.

ePropulsion has more than 160 employees, 60 of whom are involved in research and development. The company is engaged in R&D, manufacturing and sales of electric outboard motors and underwater robots, as well as water and underwater electric propulsion systems.

Tao says ePropulsion is the world's second-largest maker of electric outboard motors for small boats, shipping more than 6,000 units last year. It has partners and agencies in more than 40 countries. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sales grew 60% last year and are expected to grow 100% this year.

Electric vessels have trended in the industry amid environmental concerns thanks to their reduced water pollution from gasoline and light oil. They are quiet, do not smell or leave oil slicks, and are easy to operate and maintain. And unlike electric cars, electric outboard motors can be retrofitted.

ePropulsion's clients are mostly individuals living overseas, who account for more than 90% of sales. The company is beefing up its businesses for the private and public sectors, including dams, scenic sites, river channels and public vessels in China, taking advantage of government policies and demand. Sales from corporate customers are expected to comprise 40% of total sales by 2022.

ePropulsion is authorized by the China Classification Society.

In 2014, the startup unveiled Spirit 1.0, the world's first electric outboard motors adopting direct-drive motors, and began shipping them in 2016. Spirit 1.0 is still the company's most popular product.

Earlier this year, the company released the Navy Evo series, the latest version of the Navy lineup. From April, it will start shipping Navy Evo as the industry's first hydro-powered automatic charging propulsion device.

ePropulsion's own propulsion systems have enabled the company to improve energy conversion efficiency and cruising power. According to company data, the conversion efficiency of gasoline engines was about 20% compared with some electric engines at about 30% and the company's at 50%.

Tao expects that the propulsion engine market for small boats with an output of 300 kW or less will increase to around $10 billion annually.

ePropulsion plans to spend the new funding on developing higher-powered electric propulsion systems and improve the current product lineup. The company also hopes to boost production to meet surging market demand.

36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

For the Japanese version of this story, click here.

For the Chinese version, click here.

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