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Best of 2009, Innovations: Epic’s Hybrid Wakeboard Boat

October 27, 2009

Imagine taking your next wake session without burning a single drop of gas. It’s a thrilling prospect, even after the price of gas dropped from all-time highs last summer. Up until a few months ago, it was also science fiction. But Epic Boats made gas-free sessions a reality in February when it introduced the new Epic 23e, the world’s first hybrid electric wakeboard boat.

Now before you go and swear off your local Chevron, let’s qualify “gas-free.” In the 23e, the typical gas engine is replaced by Flux Propulsion’s EVO 8.1 Marine Drive System, an electric propulsion system powered by more than 800 pounds of lithium ion batteries. The 23e is also a plug-in hybrid, which means you can recharge its batteries by plugging it into a 110- or 220-volt outlet. Epic estimates a group of its pros can ride hard for an hour on a single charge. However, the length of your electric-only sets will increase as their intensity decreases.

“If you ride hard, meaning when one rider gets out of the water another rider jumps in, you can wakeboard for about an hour on electric only,” says Epic founder and CEO Chris Anthony. (Anthony is also the co-founder of Aptera, which manufactures the 100-mpg 2e electric plug-in vehicle.) “But the average wakeboarder will be able to stay out longer because he’s turning around to pick up riders more often, which requires less energy. If you’re wakeboarding like that or wakesurfing, you’ll likely get up to four hours on one charge.”

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As great as gas-free sessions sound, taking a break every hour or so to charge your batteries isn’t so appealing. In many cases, it’s not even feasible.

“You have to be able to go out and wakeboard all damn weekend,” Anthony says. “You can’t go to Lake Powell for an hour. You have to be able to wakeboard for four days straight.”

That’s where the hybrid in hybrid electric comes in. When you’re out on the water, a gas engine recharges the 23e’s batteries as you ride, making it capable of all-day wake outings. The fuel savings are still astounding. Epic estimates the 23e’s hybrid drive system is 50 percent more fuel-efficient than the average wake boat.

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Those savings will help offset the 23e’s hefty price tag, which Anthony says will initially fall somewhere in the $120,000 to $150,000 neighborhood. He expects the cost of the boat to fall as the cost of its batteries decreases. But that handsome investment hasn’t deterred buyers so far. Epic took several orders within a month of announcing the 23e and will begin delivering the boats in July. You can order one directly from the factory or through Epic’s dealer network.

Words: Luke Woodling Photo: Frankie Guerrero

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