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Former Tesla exec announces locally made e-boat launch

Mark Parker

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Some St. Petersburg Pier visitors may have noticed a strange-looking boat cruising just offshore. Blue Innovations group will soon publicly unveil the completed version. Images provided.

John Vo, the former global head of manufacturing for Tesla, pledged that his latest venture would bring technological ingenuity typically found in Silicon Valley to St. Petersburg.

He is now eager for residents to test drive his R30, a 30-foot all-electric luxury power boat that produces 800 horsepower. Blue Innovations Group (BIG) will launch its flagship product at a Saturday, Dec. 16 event in St. Pete.

Vo relocated to Tampa Bay from Northern California and founded BIG in late 2021. His plan to disrupt the boating industry, similar to how Tesla transformed automotive manufacturing, is right on schedule.

“The public launch event will be the first time people actually see the product where it doesn’t look like an engineering contraption,” Vo told the Catalyst. “We’ve been running in the water, testing around the St. Pete Pier for quite some time.”

All BIG’s products will emanate from its Pinellas Park factory. The company’s first offering, the R30, is the first electric 30-foot day cruiser designed and manufactured in Florida.

Its 221 kWh battery pack powers dual motors that produce 800 horsepower. The target running time is eight hours, enough to travel well offshore and back on a single charge.

However, the R30 also comes with a rooftop solar array. Vo designed the 12-person boat for longer trips with its air-conditioned cabin, a kitchenette with a refrigerator and a bathroom with a bidet.

A dining area in the R30’s cabin.

The R30 also features a “stern ocean terrace,” an integrated infotainment system and remote access. Vo has long pledged that BIG would only release environmentally sustainable projects, and the company claims its propulsion system is “pollution-free” and silent.

Vo said people often question what they are looking at when they see the prototype cruising around the St. Pete waterfront. “Hopefully, after the launch date, they will have something much nicer to look at,” he said.

Vo also plans to keep an R30 docked in the city for public tours and test drives. “I think it will be good for the community,” he added.

“It’s something we designed and made in St. Pete,” Vo continued. “And St. Pete is becoming a unique place. Local St. Pete is very global.”

He elaborated that people visit the area from across the world. In addition, many residents frequently travel to other places.

Vo believes that will increase BIG’s brand awareness far beyond Tampa Bay. After meeting his two-year deadline to produce an e-boat that blends luxury, performance and sustainability, Vo is sure he chose the right place for headquarters.

“We’re very encouraged by the amount of people who are supporting our mission and expressing interest in our product,” he said. “We even have random people from St. Pete who reach out, which is really nice. We enjoy that.

“It was the right decision. If we went back in time today, nothing would change.”

Vo added that he has no issue attracting talent due to St. Petersburg’s live-work-play atmosphere. He said employees have not encountered any unexpected setbacks or challenges.

Engineers are working on increasing the R30’s range and software optimization. Vo said that work, like Tesla’s updates, will continue perpetually.

The R30’s user interface. Vo said his company would provide continuous software updates.

When asked if he plans on following Tesla’s early approach when it came to market with the performance-focused Roadster before releasing more affordable options, Vo said, “It looks like you’ve been reading our plan.”

“As a matter of fact, we will have a four-model lineup,” he announced. “We’re going to start with the R30 – the cool cabin day cruiser. Then we’re going to move to the R30G, which is a center console. “Ultimately, we’ll make a 25-foot version that is more affordable, like $150,000.”

The R30 will come with an initial price point of around $300,000. Vo said similar-sized luxury boats cost over $200,000 and lack its horsepower, amenities and technological advances.

John Vo, founder of Blue Innovations Group.

Higher octane gasoline from a marina typically runs 50 cents to $1.50 higher than at a gas station. Vo’s ultimate goal is for the boat to pay for itself over time due to reductions in fuel, maintenance and repair costs.

He believes the R30’s design will increase durability and plans to offer a lifetime hull warranty. Once released, BIG’s fast charging stations could replenish its battery within an hour.

“You’re not going to change a whole lot of the environmental impact if only a few people can afford it,” Vo said. “But … we don’t just want to make it affordable; we need to make something of value. It has to be the safest boat. It has to be fun – people buy boats because they want to have fun.”

BIG is currently accepting reservations for R30, and Vo said the company would begin consumer deliveries by October 2024.

 

 

 

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