E-Newsletter Q&A Steve Trkla, President of North American operations of Torqeedo

By dthompson ~ August 16th, 2012. Filed under: Current Issue.

EXTRA! Interview
Steve Trkla, President of North American operations of Torqeedo

New 80-hp outboard
highlights long list
of new electric products

By Doug Thompson

Steve Trkla

When Steve Trkla talks to consumers at boat shows about Torqeedo electric outboard motors he faces a common question: Are Torqeedo products just souped-up trolling motors, or is there more we need to know?

The answer is that Torqeedo’s range of electric propulsion products fall into the same category as small gasoline-powered outboards. And this fall the company will introduce a new 80-horsepower outboard that will be available to consumers early next year.

Trkla, the President of Torqeedo’s North American operations since 2009, is a boat owner who lives north of Chicago and has a high-tech background. Southern Boating Magazine interviewed Trkla to learn about what Torqeedo has accomplished, and what’s planned for the future.

SB: Torqeedo has announced that it has developed a new 80-hp electric outboard. Can you update our readers on the project and when it will be released in the United States?
ST: Yes, this is probably the most exciting product the outboard industry will see this year or for the next several years in terms of technological, practical and environmental standpoints.

We will be introducing the 80-horsepower, 100-percent electric outboard motor in November and will be doing the boat show circuit through to the 2013 Miami International Boat Show. Serial production of the motor will be delivered to U.S. customers in February 2013, with several pre-production motors getting ready to ship now to various boat manufacturers across the U.S. for trialing, demos, and shows.

SB: What other types of new technology can we look forward to from Torqeedo? Better batteries, higher horsepower electric outboards?
ST: We have a very long pipe of new products. It is exciting to be driving the leading curve of innovation, backed by great engineering and R&D teams. We plan to work backwards from the 80-horsepower motor to further expand our existing product range. Currently the costs to produce an 80 horsepower are very similar to a 20 or 30 horsepower, hence the decision to first launch the higher powered motor.

The battery side is very interesting. Batteries and the technology associated with batteries continue to evolve at breakneck speed. Over the coming years, batteries will get denser and considerably less expensive: one day they will have the same density as a gasoline tank.

We are a long way off that mark right now but we are moving quickly in the right direction, beginning this year by launching the 14kWh battery packs for our new 80-horsepower motor. They stem from the automotive industry yet are customized to our individual product, including being rated IP67 (waterproof).

SB: What types of myths do you have to debunk from customers at boat shows?
ST: For new customers that have not heard of Torqeedo it is generally debunking that our motors are trolling motors. They are usually quite surprised when they learn Torqeedo motors are outboard motors competing against small outboards and soon even larger gasoline outboards.

SB: What successes have you seen with collaborative projects with boat builders?
ST: We have had a number of successful collaborations across a range of boat styles. Our largest to date has been with Hobie, culminating in a motor called the Hobie eVolve. We also have relationships with pontoon builders including Princecraft and Apex, as well as companies such as Schock and Electracraft, and niche manufacturers like Sea Eagle.

Torqeedo motors are used on everything from sailboats to water taxis, and our OEM relationships are constantly growing. Our latest projects are taking place with our new 80-horsepower system, in working with several top end boat builders in different market segments to integrate our new system.

SB: What challenges do you face as Torqeedo’s project range grows?
ST: Generally when you are a new or young company, capacity tends to be the biggest challenge. There are so many exciting developments that we want to pursue, we simply don’t have enough engineers to do them all.

We need to be selective as to what are the most important developments to go after. So far, we have made the right choices, as we are becoming the recognized world leaders in clean outboards with direct offices in five countries and distribution in over 34 countries.

SB: Tell us about your background with the marine industry and Torqeedo. Are you a boat owner and where do you enjoy boating?
ST: Currently I manage our North American operations. We have a direct office in Crystal Lake, Ill., employing 6 people. I got into the marine industry working for a technology company selling lead management tools to OEMs and dealers back in 2003.

Most of my career has been in the high tech space. I joined Torqeedo in 2007 as their National Sales Manager and later was promoted to President in 2009. I am indeed a boat owner and enjoy all types of boating. Most of the time you will find me on the Chain Of Lakes, which is 45 miles Northwest of Chicago, or on Lake Michigan.

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