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Old 22-04-2008, 14:31   #1
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diesel/electric hybrid

I read a story recently, I think in Lats & Atts, about diesel/electric hybrids and wondered if anyone had experience with this, or have directly talked with someone who has this on thier boat. The system used a 144VDC electric motor for propulsion that could be wired to either run off just batteries, or from the diesel generator. One of the interesting things was that the prop turning the motor becomes a generator while underway. Being an ex-Navy guy who spend 11 years on nuclear subs in the engineering end of things, the whole thing seemed to make a lot of sense to me. But, a web search didn't really result in any useful info other than sales related info from vendors. It would seem that a diesel/electric hybrid system would be worth consideration if you need to do a motor and electrical system replacement/upgrade, but I wouldn't want to be the lab rat on it.
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Old 22-04-2008, 14:43   #2
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Try Ossa-Powerlite or Solomon Technologies. Both websites should keep you busy for a while. Solomon was involved in a lawsuit with Toyota - I don't know what the current status is. They were having investor problems a couple of years ago.

Lagoon catamarans are available with diesel-electric systems...
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Old 22-04-2008, 14:59   #3
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Yes I read those sites and this is the sales info I got. I also read some older topic threads about this, but they mainly were about problems with getting the lagoon 420 going. Just wondered if by now there was real results of these systems known.
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Old 22-04-2008, 15:40   #4
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Professional Boatbuilder has run 3 or 4 Nigel Calder articles on diesel electric power. You can read them online.
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Old 22-04-2008, 16:04   #5
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I read the same article in Lattitudes and Attitudes. The greatest drawbacks that I see is the question of sustained powering over a period of a few days where your speed is limited to the output of the generator minus your shipboard loads. Having to power happens!...Murphys Law.

The other question is this technology, as applied to yachts but not obviously to submarines or certain large offshore supply boats, is still in its infancy. When I order a boat, it is going to have two standard marine diesels (probably Yanmars) and a decent sized Northern Lights generator. I would rather someone else be the guinea pig for developing this technology.

Just relating to hybrid boats, I was at the Oakland boat show and I asked if I could see the hybrid drive on a Lagoon 42. So the sales lady there let me open the after hatch on the starboard side and I could see there were some, what looked liked good sized 8-D batteries, that would have to be moved out of the way in order to get access to the electric motors. I don't know where in heck you would put these batteries, much less lift one, if you were out at sea in bad conditions and needed to access the electric motor. Perhaps the naval architects who designed the boat have a good answer? I was not impressed with that setup.

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Old 22-04-2008, 16:42   #6
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Woops...hit the 30 minute deadline. I wish someone would change that...(hint hint).

One more factor to consider about hybrid boats:
There is a big question of efficiency. Having to convert mechanical power to electrical power, storing it in a battery and then converting the electrical power back to mechanical power is very inefficient. A diesel engine driving a propeller does not have to convert this energy ...with all the subsequent inefficiencies each time power is converted and/or stored.

I am wondering if two typical marine diesels weigh more than a genset, 10 or or 12 so 8-D batteries, and a two huge electric propulsion motors? Could there also be a weight disadvantage to hybrid systems? You would have to compare horsepower to horsepower here which would mean comparing a pretty small propulsion diesel to match the relatively small horsepower of the electric motors. A good figure would be horsepower per pound. Which would be larger?

Hybrid cars have regenerative braking which makes them more efficient...boats obviously do not have this advantage.
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Old 22-04-2008, 17:05   #7
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Just relating to hybrid boats, I was at the Oakland boat show and I asked if I could see the hybrid drive on a Lagoon 42. So the sales lady there let me open the after hatch on the starboard side and I could see there were some, what looked liked good sized 8-D batteries, that would have to be moved out of the way in order to get access to the electric motors. I don't know where in heck you would put these batteries, much less lift one, if you were out at sea in bad conditions and needed to access the electric motor. Perhaps the naval architects who designed the boat have a good answer? I was not impressed with that setup.

David
You'd be right not to be impressed if the motors were indeed under the batteries. They are in fact very easily accessible under the aft bunk. Having said that, the motors only need to be accessed to replace the bearings every 20,000nm. No maintenance apart from that.
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Old 22-04-2008, 17:35   #8
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Thanks ess. You would be the expert.

How do you like your boat so far? I have been curious about the hybrids. I'm just assuming that your 420 is one?
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Old 22-04-2008, 18:21   #9
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Don, a nuke sub is not the same animal, you never shut down your power plant. Whereas the guys selling diesel electric want you to believe you can shut down the plant and run on ??????????? what, help me out guys. If you have to run the diesel to run the generator to run the motor why ditch the simple and robust tranny? Why add a bunch of cost and complexity?

By the way, my wife is an SRO.
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Old 22-04-2008, 18:36   #10
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The OSSA system looks pretty nice, but I don't like the fact that the motor, HVAC, etc runs directly off the generator instead of the battery bank.

I'd be interested to know how much torque you really need on a propellor (ideally for a decent sized sail boat). It just seems that you should be able to find a fairly efficient DC electric motor that could run off the batt bank with generator augmentation if needed.

If we motored everywhere it woul dbe one thing, but as an auxiliary it seems the scale could be shrunk down.
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Old 22-04-2008, 19:00   #11
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Thanks ess. You would be the expert.

How do you like your boat so far? I have been curious about the hybrids. I'm just assuming that your 420 is one?
Love it. Dignity is a hybrid. I've only spent a week so far on her so I would not count myself an expert yet. We're moving aboard later this year when I expect the boat to come into it's own when we start taking on the bigger trips.
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Old 22-04-2008, 19:02   #12
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Don, a nuke sub is not the same animal, you never shut down your power plant. Whereas the guys selling diesel electric want you to believe you can shut down the plant and run on ??????????? what, help me out guys. If you have to run the diesel to run the generator to run the motor why ditch the simple and robust tranny? Why add a bunch of cost and complexity?

By the way, my wife is an SRO.
????????? = wind. It is a sailboat. If you want a motor boat, don't buy a hybrid. Doesn't make any sense whatsoever. However, while you're running on the primary source (wind) you get to run your electrics and top off your drive batteries for free. On long passage there is no need to burn any oil to power your fridge. You have enough power in the batteries to get on and off your hook.
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Old 23-04-2008, 01:29   #13
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My wife and I met a couple that have spent 10yrs of their life sailing the world. We had lots of questions and had a wonderful evening with them telling their tales. However, the very first thing the Guy said to me was, "have you got a good engine?" A little stunned of the question, I replied, "yes, it's a ....." Good he said. What about the gearbox. A little perplexed now I again said a tentative yes it's a ...... Good was once again his reply. Quickly followed by "Because you'll need them. There ain't no wind out there". Huh?!? No I was really puzzled. What do you mean? I asked. "There ain't no wind out there" he replied again. I had a puzzled look on my face which meant I didn't have to ask again. "NZ and these latitudes have wind" he said. "But much of the world doesn't. You will clock up thousands of hrs on the engine. It needs to be a real good one and a really good gearbox or you will constantly be fixing them and some places parts are hard to find." I was surprised and I have never forgotten that information. So relying on wind may not always be the best bet. In regards to Electric drives, I think the only advantage is the ability to place the engine anywhere that the design suits. Apart from that, I see huge limitations. the power these drives take to run means that you have to find away to put the power back in. Even via sailing using the prop to generate, that results in a huge reduction of speed. The power the motor produced to push the boat through the water is the same plus some for losses in reverse. That results in a great deal of drag. Don't get me wrong, I am not wanting to knock the system, but I just don't see practical solutions to recharging the system yet, nor the ability to get long term power for the system unless you run a genset. And if you run a genset, you may as well have just had the main engine/s to begin with.
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Old 23-04-2008, 04:36   #14
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I am reminded that there are many folks who manage extensive travels without use of a motor. I doubt they get out and push when the wind drops. I may be proved wrong but I'm gearing myself to wait when the wind drops and just enjoy myself where I am.

I'm not sure what hybrid system you are referring to when you say the speed loss is "huge". On the hybrid Lagoon 420's the cost of regeneration is at worst 1 knot. That is assuming the system is used correctly. If you don't let the props spin (by leaving it switched off) then the drag is greater. Along with sitting around when the wind drops this will add to trip time. Given that the 420 is a very livable boat this is not an issue for us.
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Old 23-04-2008, 05:15   #15
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Thanks for the responses. Lots of Pros/Cons items, some are of course are the resistance to change things. Hope we get some more responses from people who have real experience with this whole thing.

By the way, nuc subs shut down the reactors all the time. What do you think drives the boat when the reactor is down; a BIG batttery and electric motor coupled to the shaft. I don't think there is a problem here of the diesel/electric hybrid working great. I think the thing is a scale one of getting vendors etc to develop the idea down to the size we need. This of course is marketing 101 in that they won't if they feel it won't be accepted and pay back the investment.
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