$3,500 SolarSkiff electric boat rides to the water on your car roof

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The SolarSkiff relies on a Torqeedo Travel 1003 electric motor

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Not everyone needs a large, expensive boat to get out on the water. Some folks just want something simple, affordable and easy to float. For those types, Mississippi-based Betta Boats LLC presents the SolarSkiff, a compact, dirt-simple solarized electric boat that doesn't require a trailer. If you want to motor through the water for fishing or leisure without the investment or hassles involved with other boats, the SolarSkiff looks like an intriguing option.

While we enjoy ultra-luxurious, high-tech ships, boats and water toys, too, there's something truly inspiring about simple, efficient vessels built for grabbing, going and getting onto the water. Whether it's a motorized lounge chair, a self-inflating paddleboard or a floating bike, these simple watercraft prove that you don't have to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a little fun on your local lake or river.

The SolarSkiff reminds us a lot of the flat-decked BeachRay we looked at in 2014, only with a few key differences: it's even simpler and more compact and uses an electric motor with available solar charging. Each SolarSkiff is powered by a small Torqeedo Travel 1003 motor with snap-on lithium-ion battery pack. That 3-hp motor and battery weigh under 30 lb (13.6 kg) together and offer a 10- to 20-mile (16- to 32-km) trolling range and 5 mph (3 km/h) top speed. The battery recharges in about seven hours from either a 120-volt outlet or an available 50 W solar charging set-up that can be mounted on deck and used to charge as you float.

Betta Boats says that it uses a patent-pending hull construction, covering a block of closed cell polystyrene foam with fiberglass-reinforced mesh and an acrylic coating. The hull has an 8-foot length and 4-foot beam (2.4, 1.2 m) and is designed to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, as well as on a car top. The owner removes the swiveling pedestal seat(s) and motor before securing the hull to the roof rack.

Obviously you're not going to undertake any grand sea crossings with the SolarSkiff, but Betta Boats recommends it for navigating smaller, calmer waterways, such as lakes, canals and bayous.

Betta Boats launched the SolarSkiff at last month's Miami International Boat Show, where it showed a prototype. It advertises one-, two- and four-person models with prices between US$3,500 for the 841 single-person plug-in boat ($4,250 for the solar version) and $5,250 for the 844 four-person with solar charging. The company offers custom hull sizes up to 24 feet (7.3 m), fishing-specific customization and camo wraps. Beyond the United States, it is looking at markets in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Europe.

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