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Old 05-03-2014, 19:35   #1
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Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Hey folks,

Wifey and I plan on doing the coconut milk run next year, and will buy a ~40' cat to make the trip. Whilst the Leopard has risen to the top of our list, there's a Privilege that draws my attention.

This Privilege has
Solomon Technologies 12HP ST74 drives.

Im not a naturally handy/practical kind of guy (Yes, I know that bodes poorly for being a full time cruiser). This means im particularly wary of complexities and adding extra things that can go wrong.
Part of me loves the idea of these things... part of me is very scared of 'em. Numerous issues come to mind such as scarcity of technical support & maintenance people, impact of lightening, complicated problem diagnosis, etc..


I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has experience with these drives, or similar.

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Old 05-03-2014, 20:02   #2
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

12 hp would concern me. My lagoon 380 runs two 29 hp Volvo's and in an opposing current or strong headwinds I would prefer even more hp. Just my 2 cents
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Old 05-03-2014, 20:03   #3
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

I have no experience with them, but it seems they aren't really that popular and they have been around quite awhile.


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Old 05-03-2014, 20:12   #4
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Agreed. However, I think this is a bit of a case of "When is a horse not a horse".
If it was really 12hp without a multiplier, it would be woefully inadequate. I am led to believe there is something funny going on where this ends up being more like the 30 you'd expect... but im lacking anything concrete to back that up at this stage.
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Old 05-03-2014, 20:15   #5
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

I would concur with the concern about too little propulsion on that size cat. I am investigating the new Torqeedo drives and they are 40HP to go on a 46 foot 9 tonne cat.
There are 2 scenarios to consider. One is the extended motoring if you are becalmed in which case the HP you are considering would move you along & which may not be a concern in the trade winds which tend to be reliable ( but there are exceptions!).
The other consideration is when you need a "get out of Dodge" scenario when you need the horses to motor against current & or wind. Seems too small the 12HP from what I have learned.

The other reason the Torqeedo option is attractive is the total system warranty and service offering that I believe they have. Sounds like they will replace any component failure and fly it to you & the system has internal diagnostics to tell you what is wrong so you don't need to be an electrical engineer. I might be wrong but I think they are the only vendor to offer that.
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Old 06-03-2014, 01:29   #6
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

I use a single 5 hp mars brushhless electric with Gen 4 controller though main eng is 3 cyl diesel.... The torque is ungodly 185 ft pds and thats at flip of a switch (no warm up). That said is mostly for solar cruising while becalmed in daylight @ 4 knots off the solar array (800 watts)
I would think a 12 hp electric would be capable of snapping couplers. 2 srews with regenerative capability and a diesel gen set without the need for transmissions would be a heck of a set up. I don't know what the Solomon drives voltage is but to Add solar panels to augment the power input for motoring would also benefit fuel economy. between wind and solar the gen set would not have to run as much. I would be interested to know what sailing speed they start to regenerate power. My set up starts to return power after 5 knots. Electric motors weigh so little. to r&r one in 1/2 hr shouldn't be far off the mark. sounds like the boat your looking at is worth researching. Regards
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Old 06-03-2014, 08:39   #7
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

You have to understand the difference between electric and internal combustion.

Around the dock or anchoring, the 12hp will perform similar to the 30hp. Why? Because, electric can provide maximum hp and more importantly torque from zero to max rpm. A diesel needs time to spool up the rpm until it gets into the rpm range where it is putting out it's rated hp and torque (at idle, the diesel may only be producing 4-5hp). You also get a little advantage because you can slam an electric motor from full forward to full reverse with minimal risk of damage. The diesel, you have to drop down the rpm, put it in neutral for a second or so then put it in reverse and spool up to the rpm needed.

Out tooling along, the diesel has the advantage. Assuming it is properly sized, the diesel is already running at or close to the ideal rpm and power output, so it's producing the rated hp & torque. You might credit the smaller electric with a little bit over the 12hp because a diesel shouldn't be run at more than around 80% of max power long term. You can run the electric a little harder but the electric is going to be no where close to the 30hp diesel.

Where people get mixed up is cars have a much different power profile that benefits from electric motors. A compact car tooling along the freeway at 65 may only be using 20-30hp but a gas engine with 30hp will deliver horrible acceleration because off the line, it only has a fraction of that power at low rpm (torque really). An electric motor on the other hand has max torque instantly, so the smaller motor can give acceleration similar to an 80-100hp gas engine but still has enough to maintain freeway speeds. Acceleration determines the gas engine size and freeway speed determines the electric motor size.

All that said, 12hp will probably be fine for 90% of the time. It's when you are fighting a strong headwind or current when the extra power will come in handy.
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Old 06-03-2014, 17:02   #8
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Not sure about that idea of being able to slam an electric propulsion from full forward to full reverse. It may be OK for the motor itself, but the forces of doing that on the drivetrain/mechanical coupling will break something soon or later. Strictly an emergency procedure I would have thought. I know of one electric propulsion manufacturer who built in a throttle dampener because people were doing just that and breaking lots of expensive bits.

On the matter of getting the power required correct for the intended boat, this is really quite important. I think it is a good idea to specify the engine for the worst case scenario, because of Mr Murphy. So figure out how much windage your multi has in X knots, add some current against you and wind chop, and imagine having to pull anchor at 3am and get to some shelter or better holding ground upwind.

On this point, I was speaking to Pantaeneus insurance about multihull insurance and he raised the point about having adequate engine size and type. They are seeing major claims where the boat could not make way against adverse conditions because engines were under spec'd, or they used outboards and the boat was pitching so badly that the outboards were not getting enough "grip" to get the boat out of trouble.
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Old 06-03-2014, 17:31   #9
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

On a trip like the milk run you will need to add some more sparks into the system somewhere. If that Single genset dies halfway between the Galapagos and Marquesas your going to be in the dark for some time.

It would be wise to add some nice big solar panels and a windgen.
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Old 06-03-2014, 19:57   #10
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

As someone who was seriously following the hybrid electric propulsion technologies back in 2005-2007, I tried my best to understand it and keep up on it, at the time. I ended up going the conventional diesel route. Some specific things for you to consider:

1. This particular boat sat at the CatCo docks for years, unsold. It may have been the only P395 built with the electric motors. Indeed, very few P395's were built, at all. I was one of the hundreds, if not thousand or more, people to have toured the boat, and passing on it. Not that the hull and fitting out isn't nice; it is! Alliaura always did a very nice job fitting out their boats. I'm sure the reason why it went unsold all that time, despite regular price reductions, was the electric motors.
2. Solomon Technologies no longer is in the marine propulsion business. Indeed, they renamed themselves Technipower systems and their website appears to be defunct.
3. The principal at Solomon who was pushing these was David Tether. After Solomon did not win the contract for the Lagoon 420 (which they thought sure they had in the bag, having done several 410's), Tether left Solomon (or was pushed out, I've heard both) and founded E-motion Hybrids. That website hasn't had any updated news since 2012. (News)
4. Lagoon (Groupe Beneteau, a very large company with a variety of advanced technology subsidiaries, they're not just boats) invested millions of euros in trying to make this technology work in the recreational market. They gave up.

Bottom line: You're on your own, with no support from anyone, using essentially custom-built components, with no supply chain, and no current manufacturing. In the South Pacific. Do you want to do that? If your answer is yes, and I'm not trying to be a smart-ass about this, but you should get fully informed consent to anyone who goes with you.

Now, that Privilege is a nice boat, or it used to be, anyway. If anyone actually bought it from Catco, then they are likely bleeding money on it and obviously didn't retrofit with diesels. If you really like that boat (excluding the motors), then I'd find out how much it would cost to rip all that out and put in a pair of Yanmars. Don't be surprised if the total costs (including fuel tanks, pumps, controls, and taking the rest out) runs $50K, maybe $75K. I'd make an offer based on that, subtracting those costs. You might get a nice boat out of it.

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Old 07-03-2014, 08:43   #11
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBeakie View Post
Not sure about that idea of being able to slam an electric propulsion from full forward to full reverse. It may be OK for the motor itself, but the forces of doing that on the drivetrain/mechanical coupling will break something soon or later. Strictly an emergency procedure I would have thought. I know of one electric propulsion manufacturer who built in a throttle dampener because people were doing just that and breaking lots of expensive bits.

On the matter of getting the power required correct for the intended boat, this is really quite important. I think it is a good idea to specify the engine for the worst case scenario, because of Mr Murphy. So figure out how much windage your multi has in X knots, add some current against you and wind chop, and imagine having to pull anchor at 3am and get to some shelter or better holding ground upwind.

On this point, I was speaking to Pantaeneus insurance about multihull insurance and he raised the point about having adequate engine size and type. They are seeing major claims where the boat could not make way against adverse conditions because engines were under spec'd, or they used outboards and the boat was pitching so badly that the outboards were not getting enough "grip" to get the boat out of trouble.
Agreed, I probably over stated "slaming" it from full forward to full reverse.

The point being in an emergency, you can probably get away with. At the least, you can much more quickly change forward to reverse with electric.

Take a diesel from even modest forward power to modest reverse power without pause and it's pretty much a guarante you are getting some transmission repairs.
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Old 07-03-2014, 13:29   #12
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

If you do get the boat I would add solar panels and a Honda 2000 and make sure your battery bank is up to snuff. As others have said two twelve hp electric engines would be plenty of power for stuff like docking and anchoring with the advantage of equal or better power at low rpms.

Problems are lack of range if you have to/need/want to motor and perhaps/probably lack of power under very adverse conditions. It does seem to be something of a one of a kind system so repairs could be a problem. On the up side there is not much to go wrong.

There are several threads, some current, on the topic of enginless cruising. This is not something for everyone and you are the best person to answer that question.

Just my two cents but how you view yourself in terms of cruising depending very little or very much or some where in between on a motor is a key factor in choosing the motor in your boat.
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Old 09-03-2014, 15:59   #13
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Thanks folks...
This has been a bit of a case of needing someone(s) to tell me what I already know in order to get my emotions in check.
I think this particular boat would be ideally suited to an electrical engineerey minded person who is keen to really understand the components and who will do harbor and coastal cruising. Sadly, that aint me.

As mentioned by International Drifter, this particular boat has been for sale forever, and that elusive buyer has avoided her for just as long.
She is beautifully presented and is really a boat that has been made with love. I also love the idea of electric drives, and I wish the technology had really worked and taken off.

I'll visit her while at the Annapolis boat show and might even see just how serious the seller is... I know of another P395 that has had the electric drives swapped out for Diesels (yes, thats another telling sign), so at least there is a precedent, and I should be able to get details about the other impacts of such a change (performance / weight / loading / supports / etc etc).


I still dont really understand how these drives managed to work so efficiently, but have read some stuff in the past about how the power is delivered more directly to the prop, so you end up with similar 'true' output from this 12hp as you do from a traditional 29hp Yanmar. The Lagoon 410s that were delivered with these 12hp drives could apparently meander along at 10kts.


I might do some research on a swap out, but I suspect the cost involved would leave far too great a delta between my budget and the sellers bottom line.


Thx again, im constantly humbled by the massive amount of support and advice available on the forum!
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Old 09-03-2014, 16:21   #14
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Re: Solomon Electric Drives (on a Privilege)

Hi W 007;

I have been heavily into assessing the electric propulsion technology for awhile to see if it is appropriate for long distance and remote cruising in the tropics. So far I'm encouraged that is is very viable, but the capitol expenditure is higher initially than diesels. But after that the on-going costs of electric are (almost) nothing whereas you keep having to buy diesel and change oil and service diesels.

I'm not sure how you have been convinced that 12HP electric can be equivalent to 29HP diesel, I think there is a misunderstanding there.

Electric motors are rated commonly by the electrical energy they "consume" given in kiloWatts (kW). There is a conversion between kW and HP such that for example a 30kW electric motor is roughly equivalent to 40HP diesel engine in propulsive force AT HIGHER RPM. However, an electric motor has huge torque, or "twisting power" (I'm simplifying things here) at much lower revs, so you can put on a bigger prop on the electric, and get more propulsion at lower revs than a diesel.

So perhaps your 12HP electric performing the same as a 29HP diesel is referring to that. The 12 HP electric with a larger prop is equal to a 29HP spinning the same prop?

Regarding your concern about the Solomon Technology in the boat, my concern there would be vendor support on ANY of the components when you are out in the boonies. There are other vendors that do offer good support for any component of the system.
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