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Old 30-06-2006, 11:56   #1
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Why not electric engine powered boats

Electric engines are powerful, strong enough to move the modern train diesel, which is an electric powered engine. Wouldn't it make more sense to put in an electric engine to power a boat, with a generator as the power source, thus giving a boat a dual use engine, a better one for charging batteries, etc on the go and on the hook. I'm thinking sailboats in this thread.

Think bow thrusters on large ships; the electric propulsion need not be that big, but it seems you could get a sufficient sized electric engine as motive power.

I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this, so what is the flaw in the design.
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Old 30-06-2006, 12:03   #2
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electric drives

this topic is up to 126 replies in the multihull forum - you might want to check out the discussions there - it has been a topic in articles in most major sailing magazines over the past year - definately a technology showing promise at the moment.
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Old 04-07-2006, 18:09   #3
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You might also check out the "Electric Propulsion" group on Yahoo. Over 5,000 posts on electric engines in boats.
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:21   #4
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

It takes 700 pounds of batteries to provide power equal to 1 gal of gasoline Big flaw
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:35   #5
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

If you use a generator to power electric motors to drive a boat you have losses in each step so you lose a good bit of efficiency.

Also, when you add the price of a generator and electric motor to give power equivalent to the diesel engine you're replacing it will cost double to triple the cost of a new diesel engine AND transmission.
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:44   #6
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Originally Posted by Btimmerman49 View Post
It takes 700 pounds of batteries to provide power equal to 1 gal of gasoline Big flaw
yeh ... well ...

how long does it take for most sailboaters to use up a gallon of gasoline?
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:52   #7
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

the naysayers have spoken ...

You know, the naysayers were around long after steam and gasoline moved boats, and most boats kept their sails cause they didn't trust or have faith in the Steam & IC engines.

AND ... when talking about electric ...NO ONE wants to consider using the sails more often and the engine(motor), much less often ... or for that matter, to consider 3-4 knots as adequate speed ...

We'll see what happens if the price of petrol hits $4 or $5 ... or more ...
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:55   #8
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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yeh ... well ...

how long does it take for most sailboaters to use up a gallon of gasoline?
Sailboat? 30 minutes to an hour.
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:59   #9
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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the naysayers have spoken ...

Translation. Naysayer - a person who understands science and economics and how they apply to real world applications. Also, a person that bases decisions and actions on facts instead of wishful thinking.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:06   #10
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Translation. Naysayer - a person who understands science and economics and how they apply to real world applications. Also, a person that bases decisions and actions on facts instead of wishful thinking.
Ding...ding....ding....
Give that man a Gold Star because he nailed it.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:31   #11
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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It takes 700 pounds of batteries to provide power equal to 1 gal of gasoline Big flaw
Everything about electric motors is superior to internal combustion in every way. They're lighter, smaller, far more reliable, and create far more torque at lower RPMs and so don't need complicated transmissions.

Everything, that is, except for energy storage. Batteries suck.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:33   #12
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Everything, that is, except for energy storage. Batteries suck.
So lets install a Diesel engine to run the electric motor...ya..that's the ticket...lets add more complexity to a cruising boat because it sounds cool.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:47   #13
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Translation. Naysayer - a person who understands science and economics and how they apply to real world applications. Also, a person that bases decisions and actions on facts instead of wishful thinking.
"real world application", dictate that we're talking about SAILboats and I know in this area the number one concern of sailors is how to protect the unused fuel at the end of the year.

For those who need "speed), relatively speaking, and the need to "push water", in a sailboat, the need for 1000lbs of battery and a 20kw engine might make sense ... or nonsense as it may.
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Old 27-06-2016, 14:30   #14
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Originally Posted by SURV69 View Post
"real world application", dictate that we're talking about SAILboats and I know in this area the number one concern of sailors is how to protect the unused fuel at the end of the year.

For those who need "speed), relatively speaking, and the need to "push water", in a sailboat, the need for 1000lbs of battery and a 20kw engine might make sense ... or nonsense as it may.
Ya sail boats that may need to make way when there is no wind, or up a channel against the wind, or into a harbor where sailing is prohibited.

If you want an electric engine go for it, technically it isn't all that difficult. If you want more than 20-30 minutes of range at cruising speed then you have to install a massive generator because batteries suck.

None of this is new territory. Most people want to be able to motor further than 5-6nm, if you don't then go electric. If you do then your stuck with liquid fuels.
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Old 27-06-2016, 14:39   #15
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Re: Why not electric engine powered boats

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Originally Posted by SURV69 View Post
the naysayers have spoken ...

You know, the naysayers were around long after steam and gasoline moved boats, and most boats kept their sails cause they didn't trust or have faith in the Steam & IC engines.

AND ... when talking about electric ...NO ONE wants to consider using the sails more often and the engine(motor), much less often ... or for that matter, to consider 3-4 knots as adequate speed ...

We'll see what happens if the price of petrol hits $4 or $5 ... or more ...
We just came out of a period when petrol at the dock was running $4-5/gal in the states.

It's still in that range or higher in the EU.

No mass produced electric cruising boats available...so I guess we saw.

To the OP: This has been beat to death if you do a search of this forum. If you are willing to accept drastically reduced performance, electric is viable today but it is no where close to meeting the capability of a good diesel engine at a similar price.

Once you add a diesel generator, any claims of better reliability go out the window as you have the same reliability of a diesel propulsion engine plus all the gear to convert that power into electricity and back to mechanical power.

Also don't get suckered into the magic electric HP. For a cruising boat, HP is HP. Unless you are wanting to brag about your 0-6kt times, it's irrelevant (automobiles have different performance requirements that do benefit from the low RPM torque of an electric motor).

Ultimately, it's the size of the fuel tank that kills the electric dream.


Update: And to the point about diesel electric trains, it's more about the transmission than anything else. Imagine trying to operate the clutch on 5 3000HP locomotives simultaneously to get a 100 car train to start moving. Then try shifting all 5 3000HP locomotives simultaneously to second gear. The transmissions would be huge and massively complicated. On the other hand, electricity is relatively simple to apply and control for a single guy in the lead locomotive.
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