Zero Jet at Bucklands Beach 20200922 (164 of 225)
Customer story

ZeroJet: Riding the wave thanks to jet propulsion

This article was published on Sep 30, 2021, 2:45 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Spurred by realising the pollution caused by marine engines, ZeroJet - with support from Callaghan Innovation - developed electric jet propulsion systems for small boats.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • After seeing how much pollution was caused by marine engines, entrepreneurs Bex Rempel and Neil Mans set out to develop electric jet propulsion systems for small boats.
    • Accessing support along the way from Callaghan Innovation has helped ZeroJet accelerate their R&D especially, even while pivoting their focus product wise, and in bringing onboard talented staff.
    • ZeroJet has continued to refine their technology as they gain international traction, and has signed partnership deals with leading boat manufacturers too.

    Callaghan Innovation’s assistance has been absolutely immense.

    - Bex Rempel, CEO & Co-founder, ZeroJet

    A pollution problem

    Here’s a thought if you’re firing up an outboard motor to head onto the water this summer: running one 5HP petrol-powered outboard motor for an hour produces pollution equivalent to 38 new cars running for the same period.

    Having learned of the pollution caused by marine engines while running a business renting out jetboards (petrol-powered surfboards), entrepreneurs Bex Rempel and Neil Mans decided to do something about it.

    The result: ZeroJet, a company developing and manufacturing electric jet propulsion systems for small boats and tenders - the little boats that run back and forth from a bigger vessel.

    Pivoting and partnering with Callaghan Innovation to propel the business

    Jet propulsion systems for small boats wasn’t Rempel and Mans first idea however. Instead, with the support of Callaghan Innovation, they initially developed an electric jetboard, in fact the world’s fastest jetboard that clocked up to 70 km/h.

    “We were buying and selling and renting out these boards made by a Czech Republic company, and we realised just how big the market was, but also how polluting – and extremely expensive these boards are,” says Rempel.

    “But as we got the board ready to go to market we started getting all this feedback. People said: ‘How did you put so much power into such a small space? Imagine what you could do with this technology if you put it into boats’.”

    With boat builders and their customers interested, the team pivoted to electric jet propulsion systems for boats instead in 2019. Again, Callaghan Innovation has been alongside the business, helping with a range of grants including R&D Experience Grants, and through technical expertise via our Research and Development Solutions team. 

    “Callaghan Innovation’s assistance has been absolutely immense,” says Rempel. 

    Deb Wai, a Business and Innovation Advisor at Auckland Unlimited - the Auckland delivery partner for NZTE and Callaghan Innovation’s Regional Business Partner (RBP) network - has worked alongside ZeroJet since 2019. 

    “It’s been great to see that [Callaghan Innovation’s] support in action - particularly how it’s helped them as they’ve pivoted their business idea while still developing the core technology,” says Wai. 

    ZeroJet co-founders Bex Rempel and Neil Mans out on the water at Auckland's Bucklands Beach

    ZeroJet co-founders Bex Rempel and Neil Mans out on the water at Auckland's Bucklands Beach

    Building its future

    Annually, around 350,000 outboards are sold around the world for boats sized in ZeroJet’s target market, explains Rempel. “Our plan is to replace 10,000 of those outboards over the next five years, which is equivalent in terms of pollution reduction to taking 1.5 million cars off the road.”

    Having secured its first commercial partner in 2020 - tender manufacturer Offshore Cruising Tenders - ZeroJet was able to refine and put into production their Generation 1 product. This led to the business gaining international traction, the launch of their Generation 2 product, and ultimately signing a partnership in 2022 with Highfield Boats, the world’s leading aluminium RIB manufacturer.  

    From here, more partnerships, international expansion and developing systems for larger tenders is all on the cards.

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