After twelve months of hard work and a million euro investment (1.4 million US dollars), the day has finally arrived for French entrepreneur Philippe Fretel to test out his new creation – the “Exo Watt.”
It’s his own version of a jet ski – and he’s well aware that there’s a lot resting on today’s test run.
“My feeling today is that we are immersing one year’s worth of work, and that our future, and our company’s future, depends on what will happen in the next five minutes,” says Fretel.
It doesn’t go quite according to plan.
But Fretel isn’t going to let his project sink completely.
He gets back to work, refining his design.
Fretel is not working alone on the project.
He’s teamed up with tech company Nova Simulations to create the Exo Watt.
David Ohayon, the company’s technical manager, explains that time pressures combined with the necessity to maintain a very low power engine is creating challenges.
“Exo Concept and the Exo Watt is the first one all around the world, so the power is really, really low because they wanted to allow to have a licence. Because the people, they want to use it, should have a licence if the power was higher,” he says.
“So we had a very low electric engine, and according to this low power, we had to optimise and to gain all the performances on all the steps, I mean on the turbine, on the hull, on everything.”
The team gets to work on a new prototype.
In addition to creating a clean, electric engine which has a propeller concealed in a tube – making it safe for use in areas where swimmers might be close – batteries have been created from scratch.
The 3kw engine runs on three batteries which allow a speed of 15 knots for a full hour.
The body of the Exo Watt has been made using composite materials used for aeronautics – allowing it to be lightweight, but also strong.
“For a few years, I owned a water sports club in Miami, Florida, and I noticed that the machines were getter bigger and bigger, heavier and heavier, and more energy consuming,” says Fretel.
“My idea was to engineer a machine that was more user-friendly, easier to get home, and that would use electric energy, non polluting, that would preserve the environment not only on the noise level, but also on a CO2 emission level.”
Little more than a month after the first test, Fretel is taking to the water again.
And the results this time are more impressive – both rider and machine stay afloat without a hitch.
The Exo Watt has already been presented to the French media.
It is hoped the first models will go on sale in early 2014.
Prices will be around 20,000 euros (27,500 US dollars).
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