Interview: Konrad Bergström on electric boats and stirring up the industry

The Monaco Yacht Show is famous for its opulent display of superyachts, a fleet which this year was valued at over four billion jaw-dropping euros.

But the Principality is also leading the world in sustainable practices, so it is unsurprising to see, floating beside these incredible mega yachts, a far less lavish but no less interesting boat made out of cork. It is called X Shore and it is 100% electric

Monaco Life Editor Cassandra Tanti went on board the Swedish craft during the MYS and spoke with its creator Konrad Bergström and sales director Abozar Kya about why this small vessel is creating such big waves in the boating world.

Founder and CEO of X Shore Konrad Bergström and Sales Director Abozar Kya

Cassandra: Can you tell us about the concept behind X Shore?

Konrad: I have always had a passion for the sea and over the years I have seen how it has changed: fish are disappearing, there is too much plastic and dirt in the water, and all the combustion engines out there just don’t make sense to me.

Why this boat?

Konrad: The X Shore brand is something I started in 1996 when I saw that boats were not as well defined as cars, so I thought I could do better both from a design and functionality perspective. When I saw a Tesla concept in 2012, especially their electric drive train, I thought that the same concept would work on the sea. But water has a density of 784-times the air, so you need a lot of power to move something in the water. Boats are always open, so there are also a lot of fumes and noise pollution from a combustion engine. So, for all of these reasons, X Shore became my new big venture.

Abozar: Apart from the fact it is electric, there are two things that are very important when it comes to the design of this boat. On the outside, it doesn’t look like a traditional boat so it is easily recognisable from far away. Inside, we created a modular system based on aluminium grids which not only act as a water flush but also allow you to clip in any chair and table combination that you like, to meet various needs. The interior has been designed with cork because it is sustainable, light and robust. But at the same time, it is anti-slip, particularly when wet. Meanwhile, cork absorbs the heat.

So, this is far from traditional boat design?

Abozar: In the boating industry, traditions have always been respected, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve. Our idea is to offer something that is modern and different for the whole boating industry.

Our inspiration comes from the South American eel, a creature defined by strength and grace. At the head of each vessel is a sculpture of the eel, paying tribute to our inspiration but also serving as a reminder that our boats work in harmony with nature. Over time these bronze hulls take on the green hues of the ocean through contact with saltwater. No two of our vessels will look alike.

Who is X Shore’s target market?

Abozar: Thanks to the modular design, this boat can fit many different needs. If you are a superyacht owner, you would love to have an electric tender because it is the hot new toy; if you are a charter company, it is a new way to transport clients. It can be used for island hopping, by hotels; we actually just met with the mayor of Venice who agreed that it is a great way for people in his city to get across the waterways in a very stylish and sustainable way.

Governments are now putting pressure on people to change their habits. Countries like Switzerland, Germany and Austria are banning fossil engines from the lakes so the only alternative is to use electric boats.

How many do you plan to sell?

Abozar: Our goal is to sell 2,000 boats in five years. To achieve global sales, we give people the opportunity to customise their craft on our website.

What have been the biggest challenges up until this point?

Konrad: As an entrepreneur, you have to be a sheep herder, so you have to control finance, science, the backend, production, etc. But we have had some big breakthroughs: in marketing terms we have had 2.1 million unique visitors to our website, and more than 600 people who have asked to see the boat. So, we can see that there is huge interest for this product globally. We have a boat now that is reaching our standard of 40 knots, 25 knots for two hours and 100 nautical miles at lower speeds. Now, we are challenged with the production and how we can take these prototypes and industrialise them in a sustainable way where we also make money. It’s not an easy task but I am sure that we can do it.

Well it is the perfect time to be showcasing the boat here in Monaco, especially given the IPCC report on oceans and ice caps which was released at the Oceanographic Museum on Wednesday…

It actually breaks my heart to say that climate change is the turbo of this business but I believe that if all entrepreneurs got together and created more sustainable ways for the future then we will all be safe. It’s time for everyone to take responsibility and try and help. I don’t believe we should go backwards; we need to find sustainable ways to have a modern life.