test driving the new riva el iseo superyacht tender

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All images: Leonardo Andreoni

Electric charge: putting Riva's striking all-electric El-Iseo to the test

20 June 2024 • Written by Hannah Rankine

A modern twist on a beloved classic, the striking all-electric Riva El-Iseo packs a punch. Hannah Rankine feels the surge...

I wish I could say it is a beautiful, sunny day here at the Ferretti Group’s home base of Lake Iseo, where I am about to board a Riva El-Iseo. The weather has other ideas – wet, grey ones – but, happily, that doesn’t detract from the sheer thrill of trialling Riva’s first all-electric boat.

Launched in 2023, the El-Iseo is the e-iteration of the brand’s beloved Iseo model, launched in 2011. It takes the familiar shape of classic open Rivas, with a polished mahogany bow and stern platform, aft sunpad and comfortable cockpit. Ironic considering today’s weather, it’s a design that speaks of scorching hot days out on the Mediterranean and 1960s style. So this boat is both a nod to the past and a glimpse into the future, with vintage style and cutting-edge electric propulsion.

The El-Iseo is Riva’s first fully electric powerboat

I step on board the second hull, which sports a striking electric- blue livery – the boat’s entire colour scheme can be customised to the owner’s preferences – and settle onto the leather U-shaped seating in the cockpit. Beyond the aesthetics, there’s an adjustable table, cup holders, a fridge and a sound system to enjoy here.

As we tootle out onto the expansive lake, the El-Iseo shows us what it’s made of. The absence of engine noise is immediately striking – a stark departure from the rumble of traditional diesel boats. I wouldn’t go as far as saying there is complete silence, but you can easily hold a conversation without needing to raise your voice. And, of course, there is the undeniable perk of breathing in clean air rather than diesel fumes.

Punchy electric propulsion takes the runabout to a top speed of 40 knots within 10 seconds

After a few moments, I am told to hold on as we prepare to go full throttle – and I’m glad I do. If you have ever experienced the abrupt acceleration of an electric car – that instant surge – then you’ll understand the sheer power and agility of the El-Iseo. We effortlessly reach our cruising speed of 25 knots in just three seconds, and within an impressive 10 seconds we are up on the plane, soaring at a top speed of 40 knots.

I take the helm to experience the smooth steering and an acceleration curve that the yard says is significantly steeper than that of other boats of this size. The touchscreen dashboard is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive, and I note the titles of the three drive modes – Allegro (fast), Andante (moderate) and Adagio (slow) – all named after tempos of classical music.

The issue of range is a hot topic in the electric automotive industry, and it’s no different when it comes to boats. So how does the El-Iseo compare? The yard says it offers one hour at a cruising speed of 25 knots and 10 hours at an eco speed of five knots, which, considering the boat’s intended use, shouldn’t present any concerns.

The El-Iseo caters to two primary markets: first as a superyacht tender, shuttling guests between the mothership and shore, and second for leisurely lake excursions. With several European countries implementing stringent regulations against diesel-powered boats on certain lakes, there’s been a significant surge in demand for electric boats of this size, according to the Ferretti Group.

Charging the El-Iseo is a straightforward affair – it can go from flat to full in less than two hours. Charging stations are increasingly available in major marinas, or they can be installed on board the mothership. But what if you find yourself far out on the water with dwindling power?

There’s a sunpad aft for lounging, and an adjustable table for drinks
Although updated for the 21st century, the lines are classic Riva

“When the boat’s battery level drops to 20 per cent, it automatically switches to the Adagio setting to warn you of the low battery,” says Davide Bellini, electrical systems and electronics manager at the Ferretti Group. “From there, you can still operate in Andante mode, but Allegro will be unavailable. When the battery reaches five per cent, the boat will be restricted to Adagio.”

With lithium battery safety also a common concern, Bellini offers reassurance: “We cover the entire technical area – so not only the battery but also the engine room – with a special thin and light coating, which protects the outside from  very high temperatures. So, if there is a fire, this coating protects those on board.”

As a modern take on classic design, a retro look with futuristic propulsion technology, the El-Iseo is a triumph, offering a slice of la dolce vita for the 21st century.

Model Riva El-Iseo
LOA: 8.35m
Beam: 2.5m
Draught: 1m
Unloaded displacement: 3,750kg
Battery capacity: 150kWh with Podium Advanced Technologies battery
Engines: Parker 250kW GVM310
Max speed: 40 knots
Cruise speed: 25 knots
Range: 25nm at 25 knots
riva-yacht.com

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First published in the July 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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