Debunking 7 myths about electric boating on Mallorca

Written by Marlot Cathalina

Written by Marlot Cathalina

“Electric boating is not the future, it’s the present” 

In April, Valencia hosted Spain’s first electric boat show and on the Balearics nowadays, you have a modest range of electric-powered yachts for charter to choose from. While some still perceive it as an idea for ‘somewhere in the future’ Gonzalo Coterillo, pioneer of electric boating in Mallorca, tells a different story. When Islander reporter Marlot Cathalina meets him for a chat in Club Náutico de Palma, where he passionately explains that there are still plenty of myths and misconceptions about electric power that continue to ‘rock the boat’. 

The CEO of Medvolt Marine and President of the Asociación Nacional de Barcos Eléctricos (ANBE), Gonzalo knows what he’s talking about. As an informatic engineer and marketing consultant with a family background in boat building, it was actually the pandemic that gave him the time to fully dedicate to the development of an electric llaut, and taking the traditional Mallorcan fishers boat to a next level. With currently six electric llauts sailing around the Balearics, he can confidently say that: “Electric boating is not the future, it’s the present.” 

On an island reliant on tourism, Gonzalo firmly believes that action against climate change is particularly urgent, to be able to keep enjoying the beauty Mallorca has to offer. Yet, not everyone seems to be as driven as Gonzalo when it comes to the energy transition. What is holding them back? Let’s dive into 7 myths about electric boating in Mallorca. 

  1. Just another trend
    Did you know that electric boats have existed for over a century? They were very popular from the 1880s until the 1920s, when gasoline-powered motors became the norm. Fast forward to 2024 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Gonzalo anticipates: “Spain might not be the first (nor the nautic sector), but fossil fuelled boats will eventually face bans, as is already happening in Northern Europe. Natural Park Cabrera is expected to be first, before the rest will follow.”  

  1. Technology is not there yet
    Gonzalo acknowledges that it was a challenge to combine all new technologies into something that was never made before, especially when it comes to an electric boat suitable for daily charter, in all conditions. Nevertheless, advancements in marine batteries have resulted in significantly improved efficiency, weight reduction, and autonomy. Electric motors offer perfect power for a llaut, which basically is more like a sailboat than a motorboat, designed for low speed sailing and doesn’t need a lot of power. Proof can be found at St Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort and Playa de Muro Village, both using 100% electric llauts for their guests, thanks to their commitment to sustainable tourism.

    3. Too slow
    This one may hold some truth. For instance, consider a 6-meter llaut, where approximately 1 kW of power is required to achieve a speed of 4.2 knots. Equipped with a 6 kWh battery and a 4 kW motor, you can expect 6 hours of navigation, but the duration drops significantly at higher speeds.  

Gonzalo thinks that we might have to consider our standards for ‘luxury’. In one day on a mega yacht, you can spend as much fuel as in one year of driving a car. Is it really necessary to use aircon, if you have a sea breeze? An electric boat invites you to go slow and enjoy the island not just in complete silence, but also in a responsible way.  

  1. Very expensive
    After the initial cost, you have a low-maintenance system for at least ten years. And, obviously without the fuel, you will only spend a few euros on electricity. But there’s another aspect to consider. Gonzalo did actually turn to the Conselleria to apply for European subsidies to decarbonize the nautical sector. As a result, 15 million euros is used by individuals and companies for the modernization of their boats, as part of the Investment Plan for the Energy Transition of the Balearic islander, as part of Next Generation EU. 
  2. Ports are not prepared
    People worry whether their electric boat will be able to charge in port, but all standard connections on the turrets will do. Leaving it plugged in overnight, your boat will be fully charged by morning.

This doesn’t mean that the ports are too eager for the transition. Actually, all ports in Mallorca have collectively turned down their part of the European subsidies for investment. At the moment there are no fast charging points on the island, but “just like we have a gas station for public use, it would only be fair to have fast charging points,” thus Gonzalo.   

  1. Not sustainable
    Sceptics will say that lithium batteries are not sustainable. Reality is that everything we do or make requires energy. That’s why it’s important to do the math and always look for a balance and the best options. 

The petrol industry is catastrophic to our environment. “At the same time, interests are high and secrets are kept. Look at the recent scandal over VW cheating pollution emissions tests, or the tobacco industry, trying to make us believe that smoking was healthy for years”, recalls Gonzalo. Additionally, battery recycling is being optimized. 

  1. Not my responsibility
    The tourist sector, ports, individuals, the yachting industry. We all seem to be pointing fingers at each other “if only they would do better”. But living off tourism, we all must take responsibility. If we don’t want August to become the new ‘low season’ due to intolerable temperatures, Gonzalo believes that we have no alternative but to act. 

“If people come here to enjoy our crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches, let’s provide them with services that preserve this, instead of polluting. The real questions are, will we hop ‘on board’ now, with the use of subsidies, or later, once we are obliged by the government? And do we want to have businesses from abroad doing this for us, or are we taking the lead ourselves? I opt for the latter. Sailing hub Mallorca has the potential to be an excellent showcase”, concludes Gonzalo, with the mega yachts in the background, leaving an inspired Islander reporter behind.


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