Making waves, treading water – the list of puns for this type of investment is nearly endless. In a deal reported by The Detroit Free Press, General Motors has plowed $150 million into a Seattle-based startup company called Pure Watercraft. The outfit makes electric outboard motors and batteries for marine applications.
To be clear, all references to this deal makes sure to point out that the sum touted by both parties includes both “in kind commitments and capital”. This makes it tough to determine just how much cash The General has transferred from RenCen to Pure Watercraft, especially since those in the know ain’t talking. Referring to “in kind commitments” could mean anything from marketing advice to the use of a warehouse, the value of which is often determined by the company supplying the largesse.
This can be troublesome when trying to ascertain the actual value of a deal. For example, your author could claim he gave $1 million of in-kind services when he toiled for three days building a new deck for a family member. I might think the effort was worth that amount, but the open market surely does not.
In any case, GM now lays claim to 25 percent of Pure Watercraft, a ten-year-old company that bills itself as the purveyor of lithium-ion battery packs which are claimed to have the equivalent of 50 horsepower. Their R&D department has apparently been busy, since their website details advancements the team has made in developing a proprietary gear set and motor control design. This years-long research has apparently resulted in a system that runs quietly with less vibration than some other market options.
So what is GM’s endgame here? It could be getting access to that so-called silent tech, though The General’s EVs aren’t exactly noisy. Perhaps they jumped in bed with this company for modular power, touted by Pure Watercraft as a stowable battery pack system. Each pack has 8.8 kWh of juice and can be connected in series for larger capacity applications. They weigh just over 100 pounds each and measure about two feet long by roughly a foot square. Silverado PHEV with a couple of these batteries under the bed, perhaps?
Ok, that’s not likely to happen given GM’s investment in their own Ultium battery technology. If anything, it’ll be the other way around. Suits at RenCen specifically said they’re investing in this company with an eye towards “future zero-emissions marine product offerings”. Specifically, they’ll further develop tech for BEV watercraft, deploying some of The General’s battery technology to help push the industry’s transition to electric power. Remember, GM has its fingers in many pies including rail and aerospace. They’re not all about Silverado and Sierra pickups, no matter what we gearheads like to think.
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