Here are 12 amazing zero-emission electric hydrofoil personal watercraft that fly over the water, a technology that didn’t even exist 4 years ago!
No wonder it is catching on. Nearly every description of the experience, from the inventors and developers who first came up with these machines to first time e-foilers, is that it feels like flying on water. Some of the manufacturers even say, when referring to the battery life: “flying time of one hour”.
A quick history and explanation. A hydrofoil is literally a wing that attaches underneath a boat or any kind of vessel. It acts the same way as the wing of an airplane – as the boat (or in our case, board) moves through the water, it increases water pressure on the underside of the foil, decreases it on the upper side and when the board reaches a certain speed the foil lifts the board out of the water.
Wikipedia says “The first evidence of a hydrofoil on a vessel appears on a British patent granted in 1869 to Emmanuel Denis Farcot, a Parisian.” Over the years they have been used on military vessels and passenger ferries, and in 2009 Alain Thébault, inventor of the electric foiling water taxi SeaBubbles, and foiling FlyBus ferry, put hydrofoils on an 18m sailing trimaran – the Hydroptere – and proceeded to break the world’s speed records.
As for boards rather than boats, surfer celeb Laird Hamilton put a foil on a surfboard in Maui around 2009 and started flying over water either on the waves as in this video or by having it towed by jetskis or kites.
In 2016 the electric hydrofoil concept sprang to life
It seems that around 2016 the idea of an electric motor hydrofoil board was occurring to a few people. Electric motors and batteries had developed to the point that the propulsion system could be light enough and powerful enough to be attached to the wing itself, under the water, and provide enough speed to lift the board.
Some of the people with the concept were already in the watersport business, others were just surfers or wakeboarders or unpowered hydrofoilers who had dreams of being set free from the towing mothercraft. Some had already been working on it in their basements and garages. Literally all over the world.
You’ll see below that these dreamers and visionaries were in Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Norway, Canada, Slovenia, China, Italy and the Czech Republic.
The first public breakthrough seems to have come in October of 2016 when Dan Montague, who had been head of R&D at the Naish International surf/wake/kiteboard company (see Jetfoiler below) put up a video on YouTube of him flying over the waters around Fiji.
At about the same time, in Puerto Rico, the hydrofoil factory of Nick Leason’s company LiftFoils – which had been making towable hydrofoil boards – had a catastrophic fire and he and his partners made the decision to concentrate on launching the world’s first commercial e-foil.
Below is a mini-documentary about the founding of the e-foil project, starring Nick himself.
Perhaps because the electrically powered hydrofoil isn’t dependent on water conditions – or temperature – developments and advances could be tested everywhere instead of in just the usual warm ocean places for surfing and boarding innovation, like Hawaii or California or Ibiza.
In the promotional video for Cabratec, you can even see the inventor, Miroslav Schuetz, step off an ice shelf on a fjord onto his ‘Easy Goat’ e-foil, zip around the open water and then follow the edge of the shelf before he slows down and steps onto the ice again!
Here are 12 companies making e-foils
Below is a collection of the 12 companies we could find that are making viable electric hydrofoils – plus an instructables project for those who want to build their own.
Plugboats makes no assertions about which of these are the best, but each item is linked to the company website for more information.
Most are in pre-order or reserve stage – except for Nick Leason’s Lift – which came on the market in May of 2018 and has already delivered over 600 boards to customers as of this writing. (April, 2019).
There will almost inevitably be some sorting out in the industry as to which boards can make the transition to being successful in the marketplace, but with so many people working on e-foils it also inevitable that the technology involved will become better and more affordable, probably very quickly.
For now, here is a look at the intrepid pioneers who are leading these exciting new advances.
Lift The first production e-foil, which started shipping in May, 2018. Like all of the e-foils, it has an electric motor, battery (in this case lithium-ion) and a hand controller. Lift’s is connected via Bluetooth. Riders can fly for up to an hour at speeds of 25 mph or more.
Jetfoiler Is the Don Montague creation being developed with his Kai Concepts team in San Frnacisco – who also invented the trimaran kiteboat. The Jetfoiler is still in prototyping, but it has already undergone a lot of real life testing and they “will make an announcement when we have boards available to sell.”
Flite was founded by Australian entrepreneur David Trewern who had learnt to surf, windsurf and sail by age 10, became one of Oz’s first Kitesurfers in 1998 and in 2005 broke the (GPS) Kitesurfing world speed record with a top speed of 48.5 knots. He’s assembled a group of 25+ experts who share the passion to create an amazing new way to ride water.
VEFoil started when a couple of dreamers from Canada decided to act on their idea and launched a Kickstarter project to cover R&D costs, receiving 366 backers and setting them on their way. They’ve designed the board so that the motor can be removed to convert it to a kite foil or wake foil.
Cabratec came about because Miroslav Schuetz was so inspired by Don Montague’s 2016 Fiji video that he set out to build his own e-foil. As he saw prices for others he concentrated on a more affordable option. Engineering, testing and prototyping took up 2017 and his EasyGoat became available for pre-order in 2018.
HoverStar Flight Technology began in Shenzhen China in 2015 with their H1 Flying Car. From there they moved to the water and put together a hand held electric motor ‘AquaJet’ for snorkeling, the ‘HoverArk’, a sort of floaty with motors, and the HoverFoil is just the next natural progression, an electric motor on a bigger platform.
Albatrossfrom Okarbon is a little bit different, an inflatable board that comes with a battery powered compressor. The whole thing can be stored in a backpack and the video on their website shows the components being put together in a couple of minutes.
The Elevate Eco-Foil e-foil is another inflatable that is made for easy transport. In addition, its developers say that the actual hydrofoiling part with the motor can be easily attached to other wakeboards or SUP (Stand Up Paddling) boards to convert them instantly to e-foils.
Flying Rodeo is another kit-type e-foil with different components that are assembled, but the board is rigid, not inflatable. There are also two types of rigid board offered, with the motor and other hydrofoil elements being interchangeable to give different flying experiences.
And if you have an extra 17 seconds to spare, this video of the Flying Rodeo alternative to Santa’s traditional sleigh and reindeer is well worth a look.
EldoRIDEdo comes from the Czech Republic, the creation of a team at SportProp that has been making carbon and composite propellers and other parts, for aerospace, auto racing and even hang-gliding trikes, since 1993. When they imported a kite-hydrofoil in 2012 they started working on their impeller powered version
e-takuma is the last of our kit type e-foiling offerings, with the motor easily detaching from the foiling wing to make a towable foiling wake, kite or SUP board. One of their claims is ease of use, noting that out of 500 test users, the average time to ‘learn to fly’ was just over 3 minutes.
The Waydoo Flyer is from a subsidiary of TXA, a Chinese company that makes intelligent drones used in agriculture and applied that learning to electric hydrofoils. The e-foil division was founded in 2018, the big unveiling took place at the Singapore Yacht Show in April and orders are now being taken, with a one month delivery promise.
Build Your Own E-Foil! After seeing video of an e-foil and realizing they were really expensive, Hans, Jonas and Nikolai Hiorth of Norway – decided to build their own. Learn from them with their Instructables page that also has video of the great looking finished e-foil. Two-part instructions: board, hydrofoil, propulsion unit; battery and controller.
Photos are © the respective e-foil companies. Plugboats video uses footage from: Albatross, JetFoiler, Lift, Flite, Cabratec, Elevate, Waydoo, VEFoil
Keep up with the world of electric boats, ships and watercraft. Sign up to get the Plugboats weekly update sent to your mailbox.
The first hydrofoil boat dates back to 1906 designed and built by the Italian Inventor, Enrico Forlanini (1948-1930). The foil design was made from the classic "Ladder" type construction which has multiple struts coming down with multiple wings between them.
Price & Availability
Looking at the price, the new Lift 3 eFoils start at $12,500 for the standard package– which include the board, battery, 1 wing of your choice, the standard remote, and a full set of the standard board bag and wing case.
1960s: Walter Woodward invents the first waterski hydrofoil. 1973: Mike Murphy and Bud Holst develop the hydrofoil kneeboard.What are electric hydrofoils? ›
An electric hydrofoil is a surfboard with a hydrofoil attached with mechanical means of propulsion. The electric motor on the hydrofoil generates the speed required to lift the board up out of the water and onto the foil. The craft is manoeuvred by the rider shifting their weight on the board.What is the purpose of a hydrofoil? ›
Hydrofoils are the plates that bolt on your outboard cavitation plate, which increase the surface area of the plate. They work by lifting the boat out of the water as the boat gathers speed, creating less drag. This helps to increase acceleration, giving you more power and reduced strain on the engine.Why is the hydrofoil important? ›
Hydrofoils can lift a boat's hull clear of the water as speed increases, and the resultant reduction in drag yields higher speeds without expending more horsepower. The two main foil systems now in use are the surface-piercing and submerged types.How long do e foils last? ›
The eFoil is equipped with an advanced lithium-ion battery allowing for up to 100 minutes of riding with our Full Range Battery, or 60 minutes with our Light Battery.How long does an eFoil battery last? ›
The battery is enclosed in a rugged, IP68 waterproof housing that allows it to be easily transported and safely installed. The Full Range Battery charge lasts up to 100 minutes, depending on rider weight, wing set-up, and speed.Is e foiling hard? ›
Although it could be considered a cousin to traditional surfing, foil surfing is significantly different than riding a standard surfboard or stand-up paddleboard on a wave. It's also much harder, giving a new thrill to dedicated wave riders who are exploring and experimenting with this cutting-edge craft.How do electric hydrofoils work? ›
It works in the same way that the wing of an airplane works. As the vessel moves through the water, the shape and design of the wing increases water pressure on the underside of the foil and decreases it on the upper side. As the speed increases, the water pushes the foil up.
We recommend the eFoil for persons ages 16 years and older. Larger people are capable of riding a Lift eFoil, but our factory recommendations for most of our boards are 100 lbs. – 250 lbs. Our Cruiser board is built to handle riders up to 275 pounds comfortably.How fast do foil boards go? ›
Most e-foil boards also operate on an average speed of 20 km/hour. Depending on battery life, some have a top speed of up to 50 km/hour.Why are foil boards so expensive? ›
In addition to the lack of production volume, foil designs change quickly, which explains its high price. Each new design needs new molds, which must be researched and developed, tested, prototyped. Supply and demand.Does hydrofoil need a motor? ›
People use them for sailing, conventional surfing, and kiteboarding mainly. But companies like Lift E-Foil, which you can read about here, are taking hydrofoil boards a step further by attaching motors to them. That means you can ride them anywhere and don't need wind or waves to push you along.How long have electric surfboards been around? ›
The first-ever electric surfboard was built in Australia in 1935. "Surf Scooter" was a motorized surfboard built to help lifeguards rescue struggling or drowning swimmers on Sydney's Bondi Beach. The project was abandoned after the first tests, and the innovative idea hibernated for 25 years.Which hydrofoil is best? ›
- SE Sport 300 Hydrofoil.
- Stingray Xriii Hydrofoil.
- Davis Doel-Fin Hydrofoil.
- Marine Dynamics Starfire Hydrofoil.
- Attwood Outboard Hydrofoil.
- Davis Instruments Whale-Tail Hydrofoil.
A new study from Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology shows how hydrofoiling ships could be 80 per cent more efficient than their non-foiling cousins. Hydrofoils act like an underwater wing for vessels, lifting the hull out of the water and dramatically reducing resistance.Are hydrofoils good? ›
Hydrofoils work to help a boat reduce drag and increase speed. Because water provides resistance to a ship trying to move through it, the resulting pushback can make a vessel slow down, even at peak operation.Are hydrofoils fuel efficient? ›
Using hydrofoils bring several advantages, and one of the big advantages is drastically lowering the impact that the FOILER has on the environment. It is not only more fuel-efficient, but it brings a whole new level of eco-consciousness.What is a hydrofoil made of? ›
Carbon fiber has 2 main properties that make it attractive for hydrofoils – stiffness and strength. For stiffness, carbon fibers are categorized by performance according to the tensile modulus of the fiber. The most common units of measurements used are “pounds of force per square inch” (psi) or “gigapascals” (GPa).
How do hydrofoils work - a deep dive into the physics - YouTubeWho invented foiling yachts? ›
Foiling may seem like a recent technological phenomenon but it has actually been 100 years in the making. The first development of a foiling water vessel was a 60hp motorboat designed and built by Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini in 1906.How fast can a hydrofoil go? ›
It has a top speed of about 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph).Why are hydrofoils so expensive? ›
In addition to the lack of production volume, foil designs change quickly, which explains its high price. Each new design needs new molds, which must be researched and developed, tested, prototyped. Supply and demand.Are hydrofoils more efficient? ›
A new study from Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology shows how hydrofoiling ships could be 80 per cent more efficient than their non-foiling cousins. Hydrofoils act like an underwater wing for vessels, lifting the hull out of the water and dramatically reducing resistance.Are hydrofoils faster? ›
Adding a hydrofoil to a boat boosts performance and speed, especially for boats that do not require trim tabs. They are also more stable than conventional sailboats.What is the largest hydrofoil? ›
Hydrofoils are generally prohibitively more expensive than conventional watercraft above a certain displacement, so most hydrofoil craft are relatively small, and are mainly used as high-speed passenger ferries, where the relatively high passenger fees can offset the high cost of the craft itself.What is the fastest hydrofoil boat? ›
World's Most Advanced Hydrofoil Boats Fly Above Water - YouTubeWhat was the first foiling boat? ›
1869 – First patent for hydrofoil was for a rowing boat, French application made by Emmanuel Denis Fargot. 1906 – First hydrofoil boat designed and built by Enrico Forlanini. It had a ladder-type construction with multiple struts supporting multiple wings. It achieved 36.9 knots.
It's also important not to ski in shallow water due to the depth of the foils. Cost is typically $1,500 and up.
Stay inside the broad, flat rear cabin. The outside areas of the hydrofoil are very tempting if you have a still or video camera, but once the ship hits full speed, you may be at risk if you are outside. Even when the water is relatively calm, the wind may be surprisingly strong.Are hydrofoils worth it? ›
Adding a hydrofoil to an outboard does provide a performance boost much of the time. The smaller the boat the more significant the impact is, especially on boats that don't have trim tabs.Are hydrofoils safe? ›
With a hydrofoil, you have full three-dimension control - roll, pitch, and yaw - over the board. So, a hydrofoil can potentially become a dangerous, deadly weapon. Keep a distance and stay away from everyone else.Are hydrofoils hard to ride? ›
Both Kai and Laird make riding a hydrofoil look incredibly fun, and awfully easy; whilst the former in that statement might be true, the latter certainly is not. In truth, they're outright difficult.How hard is it to hydrofoil? ›
You need to be able to surf quite well to surf foil. Starting is hard, and you need to start in small forgiving waves with a helmet on. It's a steep learning curve so take your time and be safe. You will need a foil board similar size to your regular surfboard or smaller.