A year ago, word leaked that Sea-Doo was building a new lightweight entry-level runabout: the Spark. Since then and its worldwide public reveal last September, the Spark has breached buying demographics in nearly all categories, most notably age and price. This is only expected to continue as Sea-Doo expands its marketing reach to non-endemic PWC buyers; specifically, persons new to watercraft ownership.
The problem is getting the Spark to appeal to these potential buyers on their level.
“Early testing revealed that appealing to a very environmentally-conscious demographic with a traditional fossil fuel-burning engine wasn’t going to work,” explained BRP’s Drake Mallard to The Watercraft Journal from BRP’s Valcourt, Quebec headquarters. “We knew if we could reach these potential customers while proving that [BRP] can produce a lightweight, hybrid-electric power source for a personal watercraft – and do it in our smallest platform, the innovative Sea-Doo Spark – we could change the game completely.”
Powering the project, appropriately titled Étincelle de Vie (or “Spark of Life”), proved to be its own challenge. The nonprofit organization Centre de technologies avancées BRP – Université de Sherbrooke (CTA) was tasked with not only developing the completely unique hybrid technology for the watercraft, but to do so using 50 percent less fuel and cutting CO2 emissions by 50 percent, and to accomplish all of this while maintaining the Spark’s speed, acceleration and agility.
The CTA’s biggest target was a total range of 150 miles, with 90 of those miles in electric mode. Mallard said that to achieve these goals, the team had to design an entirely new propulsion system, as opposed to modifying existing hybrid technology. A significant amount of weight was needed to be removed from current parts to compensate for the addition of the hybrid elements, which features two rows of next-generation NiMH batteries and a functioning transmission that will activate when the hybrid changes from gas to electric power.
“The transition from gas to electric is seamless,” Mallard continued. “A traditional 60-horsepower ACE 900 powers the Spark Hybrid until reaching a preset threshold within the power curve. Only then will an in-dash icon appear with an audible chime, indicating that the Spark has moved to electric power.”
Unfortunately, the added technology comes at a cost: the new Spark Hybrid weighs an extra 64-pounds over the standard Spark and will set the buyer back an additional $2,499.95. Because of the exclusive nature of the Spark Hybrid, dealers will be allowed to accept down payments as early as August 1st, 2014.
Obviously, unveiling a product intended for the next model year is a tremendous gamble on Sea-Doo’s part, but we all know that the industry leader in technology innovation isn’t one to take the road most traveled. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered and await further details on this groundbreaking machine. For the original announcement and some additional information on the all-new Spark Hybrid click HERE.