The Shape of Things to Come
The buzz, or perhaps the hum, on hybrid and electric outboard engines.
By Ken Kreisler
Here’s an excerpt from a forum thread I picked up on while researching this topic:
“I have been doing some drawings using a 18V cordless drill and a 90⁰ drive. I would like to build a prototype but don’t want to spend a lot on proof of design model. Maybe this winter? It might be what the canoe, kayak people are looking for?”
Then this response:
“For a little boat, you might just try a cordless drill as-is. Attach a prop to the drill and hold it underwater. Just might work fine in water. Haven’t tried it myself.”
Okay, so I don’t think the drill thing is going to work. Better scrap that idea and move on. But I couldn’t resist this last one to kind of dog the hatch here:
“Also wanted to add that many power tools will also operate just fine on DC rather than AC power. So for example, you can take a beefy angle grinder and run it on 24v battery power, which would probably spin it at an RPM more useful for a prop than 120v”.
We’ve seen it before. A need addressed usually results in some sort of solution, however circuitous or less travelled the path might be. I even remember way back, in my yard snipe days, hearing some of the old timers lament about this new ‘Loran thing’. But certainly, with today’s geopolitical climate being what it is, and whether you ascribe to any doomsday theories about the end of oil supplies or not, the often rollercoaster and volatile price at the pump is certainly driving research into not only alternative fuel sources but in the direction of energy replacements as well. Enter the idea of the hybrid and electric outboard.
The original Elco Electric Launch as used in Chicago in 1893.
First, in the case of the electric outboard, let’s skip the intensive physics lesson concerning electromagnetism or the laws of Newton, Ampere, Ohm, and Kirschhoff, and instead cut right to the chase. At its most basic, an electric motor takes electrical energy, such as that produced by a battery, or enhanced/backed up by solar power, and turns it into movement. So instead of an internal combustion engine under the cowling, there is an electric motor turning the driveshaft to move your boat through the water.
The concept is not new. You could say it began in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition on the afternoon of May 1, 1893, where well over one million passengers would take rides on 55 electric-powered boats designed and built by the Electric Launch Company, better known as Elco, over the course of the event.Today, there are several electric outboard engine manufacturers in the forefront of the technology whose designs, in some applications, offer a sensible, quiet, economical, and non-polluting alternative to internal combustion power.
Campion and ReGen have teamed up with an electric rig capable of pulling waterskiers and wakerboarders.
Ft. Lauderdale-based ReGen Nautic has been creating quite a buzz with its 180- and 130-hp, fully electric outboard engines. Joining forces with Campion Boats, Canada’s largest producer of fiberglass boats, they already have a Chase 550 Bow Rider and 180-hp electric engine off to a Swiss dealer.
“This technology has to start somewhere and we feel it is with us,” said ReGen’s president and CEO Pierre Caouette. “Among the most important aspects are our concerns about the safety systems we design into our products, ones that are well-understood by our company. Improved battery technology is some three years out and we are positioning ReGen Nautic to be there when it happens.”
The ReGen 180, with its 38.4 kWh lithium-ion battery bank, has gone for about 20 minutes at near peak power before having to go in for a charge. “With hi/lo operation, we’ve gotten two hours before recharge. And the boat has easily pulled water skiers and wake boarders,” said Caouette. However, it may make sense in a more practical application, such as that for a megayacht tender, where the engine can be easily recharged by a big boat genset system, or in a multi-engine configuration instead of running gasoline-powered engines for slow bell operations when entering a harbor or navigating a long stretch of no-wake zones. www.regennautic.com
Morton Ray, the guiding force behind Ray Electric Outboards of Cape Coral, FL, built his first prototype in his basement in Annandale, Virginia in 1973. “I am proud to say, that since my first motor was manufactured back in 1974 and of the thousands of motors manufactured since then, approximately 99% of our motors are still in service,” states Ray.
The Ray line up incudes the System 200-2.5 HP, 36V Series Motor, System 400-4.0 HP, 48V Series Motor, and System 500-5.0 HP, 60V Series Motor. Chargers and either Deka or Exide batteries are extra as is some optional equipment. Pricing for lithium-ion batteries is also available. www.rayeo.com
Winner of the 2012 DAME Innovation Award at this past year’s METS gathering in Amsterdam, Torqueedo, the German electric outboard motor company, with 13 offerings from 1- to 15-hp, is relying on its new 80-hp DEEP BLUE engine to propel it forward and into a strong position in this market.
The Torqeedo Deep Blue is making quite a splash while leaving a nice wake in the electric outboard field.
According to the company’s fact sheet, the DEEP BLUE System incorporates top to bottom specifically designed engineering. Among other features are a matched gearbox, and a waterproof venting and breathing seal, this to prevent any moisture from affecting the battery, compensate for temperature variants, and, in the unlikely event, to safely vent any gases. The connection box is the system’s nerve center connecting all the electrical and signal cables while providing a connection for two to four batteries. And an on-board computer and touchscreen display, with 14 different screens, covers a wide range of information including GPS-based range and battery charge status. Pricing for the DEEP BLUE System, options, and battery information is available upon request. www.torqeedo.com
The 30-hp Aquawatt seems a good match for a tender/dinghy.
Aquawatt, based in Austria, has four offerings in its electric outboard line; 11-, 18-, 28-, and 30-hp. The company has done extensive research and development in both AGM and Lithium Ion battery technology as well as in the solar power market and will therefore, have the ability to match up specific needs for various applications. All the engines are constructed with seawater resistant aluminum, have highly efficient water-cooled AC induction motors, and are suitable for saltwater use with zinc anodes. www.aquawatt.at
There is little doubt that the shape of things to come will be more efficient, less polluting power for our engines, both inboard and outboard. In the case of the electric models, there is the inefficiency and extra weight of the battery systems. But as long as the need is there, a solution will be found. We’ll keep you posted on how things are progressing as we move forward with this technology.
I have a final thought on this topic concerning both its social, political, and economic implications that is mine and mine alone: If this country can send a $1+ billion, one ton, car-sized, electric/solar-powered vehicle to the surface of Mars, and then communicate and operate it to run around and explore the planet’s surface, then most assuredly, we should already be much further on down the road then we are in terms of alternative energy sources, sustainability, and limiting the use off fossil fuels. What do you think?
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