Taiga Motors eyes global market with Quebec-made electric personal watercraft
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Sep 19, 2019
Emma Jarratt

Deliveries of Taiga’s Orca start in 2020, alongside its electric snowmobiles, making Taiga a pacesetter in bringing electric propulsion to these recreational outdoor markets

Deliveries of Taiga’s Orca start in 2020, alongside its electric snowmobiles, making Taiga a pacesetter in bringing electric propulsion to these recreational outdoor markets

A young Quebec company is positioning itself to make an electric splash in the global recreational vehicle industry.

Taiga Orca electric personal watercraft on charge

Orca, a battery-powered, jet ski-like watercraft, was unveiled this week at a trendy cafe overlooking the Toronto harbour by Taiga Motors of Montreal. It follows the company’s June debut of the world’s first line of electric snowmobiles. Both are scheduled to go into production at a location just outside Montreal and begin deliveries next year.

“The silence of the engine in the [Orca’s] electric system really shapes the experience,” Taiga co-founder and CEO Samuel Bruneau told Electric Autonomy Canada.

“It takes it from being more of a motorsport to being an outdoor sport.”

Taiga is racing to meet buyers’ appetite for clean, technically advanced and quieter driving

Made-in-Canada success

With Orca, as well as its four-model lineup of snowmobiles, Taiga hopes to be the next made-in-Canada success story in the electrification of transportation. To get there, it is racing to meet, and further stoke, buyers’ appetite for clean, technically advanced and — especially important in the US$10-billion-plus global “powersports” market — quieter driving.

Taiga Orca electric personal watercraft cruising on lake

The company is the brainchild of three former McGill University engineering students, Paul Achard, Gabriel Bernatchez and Bruneau.

The trio combined their specialties — mechanical, software and electrical engineering — to build their first electric snowmobile for a classroom competition in 2013. By 2015 they were courting interest from buyers around the world.

From project to solution

“It’s been great, the mentality shift. It went from being just a school project to being a real solution that people were looking at in the industry,” says Bruneau.

Vail Resorts, which owns several world-famous mountain resorts, among them Whistler-Blackcomb, pledged in 2017 to be zero net emissions at all its sites come 2030. Taiga’s electric snowmobile has been slope tested there and at other locations around the world, from Brazil to Norway.

“The people who ride snowmobiles, all they want is the best ride possible”

Samuel Bruneau, Co-founder and CEO, Taiga Motors

The people who ride snowmobiles, all they want is the best ride possible,” says Bruneau. “Now they are seeing that electric can deliver that extra performance.”

BRP shows concepts

Taiga Orca electric personal watercraft dash
Taiga’s Orca features full connectivity and GPS mapping

Taiga is not the only Canadian company eyeing a stake in this emerging market. Just last week, BRP Inc., the Quebec-based recreational vehicle giant, released a lineup of six concept electric powersport vehicles. The products range from an electric jet ski to electric motorcycles and electric go-karts.

Notably, the concepts shown didn’t include an electric snowmobile, BRP’s flagship Ski-doo brand product.

For now, BRP says it has no plans to put any of these “preliminary” vehicles into production while it is still “evaluating market viability.”

That means Taiga should have a significant head start — for both its snowmobiles and Orca — if it meets its goal of having its first production units coming off the assembly line in 2020.

Initial run of 500 units

Much in the same way the Tesla Roadster was rolled out, Taiga says it will limit Orca production to an initial run of 500 “Founder Edition” units that will be sold in North America. After that, Orca production will be expanded to be available to buyers around the world.

Plans are also afoot to take on a significant market role under the hood of off-road vehicles.

As electrification becomes more mainstream than niche, companies who dominated in the combustion engine field will be looking to make their own electric products. Some of them have already approached Taiga to supply the battery and propulsion technologies for these lines.

Taiga fully intends on supplying future competitors with the guts of their machines — after getting its own fleet off the ground.

“It’s one of the key elements of powersports if you look at the big players like BRP; they use the same engines across the different vehicle lineups,” says Bruneau.

“We always had the intention to build a platform that would allow us to do all these things.”

Benefits of the Orca’s electric propulsion over combustion engine personal watercraft

  • The lowest centre of gravity of any personal watercraft
  • Taiga’s proprietary closed loop cooling system means no winterization is required
  • No engine maintenance
  • No heavy lifting of jerry cans, no gasoline spillages into lake water
  • Zero in-use CO2 emissions
  • Reduced noise
Taiga Orca electric personal watercraft on lake
That’s mist on the lake, not exhaust fumes.

Taiga Orca Specifications

  • Price: $14,000 – $28,000
  • Top speed: 104 kph/65 mph
  • Battery: 23 kWh of energy, 355V nominal voltage,
  • Range:  2 hours drive time on a single charge under typical conditions
  • Charging: 10kW Level 2 charging on 240VAC and overnight Level 1 charging on 110VAC. DC fast-charging to 80% in 20 minutes for high-throughput operators
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