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Old 27-03-2012, 12:58   #1
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Electric Propulsion Update

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.

My last post proved very controversial (OMG Clawing off a Lee Shore in a Gale) and I was busy preparing to sail to La Paz Mexico from Marina Del Rey California aboard my 20 foot Pacific SeaCraft Flicka "Nomad" in the dead of winter.

I figured it would be better to post about the viability of low powered eletric propulsion after the voyage had begun, and we had some miles under our keel.

We set off from Los Angeles with a 4 horsepower Torqueedo electric outboard for auxilliary propulsion, (with three battery packs) charged only with solar, wind, and water generation - and the water (tow) gen is still not operational because we haven't needed it.

I'm writing this waiting for a weather window in beautiful Bahia Santa Maria, after logging over 750 sea miles down the remote Baja Coast with my partner. We should be good to go after this gusty 20 knot wind has eased a bit - we like to be comfortable at sea.

The Torqueedo Travel 1003 outboard has performed flawlessly, and has made us better sailors - when the wind dies, we use it only to maintain bare steerage until it comes up again.

We have learned how to both set our anchor under sail, and how to sail off her - and we get a better set than we ever could with an engine.

We have only used shore power once - when at Coral Marina in Ensenada Mexico, and we have been out of LA for over 5 weeks.

In addition to our outboard, we have a watermaker supplying fresh water, a refrigerator, a windlass, a washdown pump, and a variety of other electronic equipment, all running off of solar and wind energy.

We have not taken on a drop of fuel, do not have an internal combustion generator, and while we have not had to claw off of any lee shores, we did have to claw our way into this windy anchorage and set the hook.



So to anyone who still thinks a "powerful, reliable, diesel engine" is essential for cruising, I offer our voyage as proof otherwise.

For photos, stories, and position updates, go to www.svnomad.tumblr.com

Next stop - Cabo San Lucas!

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Old 27-03-2012, 13:06   #2
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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. . . I was busy preparing to sail to La Paz Mexico from Marina Del Rey California aboard my 20 foot Pacific SeaCraft Flicka "Nomad" in the dead of winter. . .

So to anyone who still thinks a "powerful, reliable, diesel engine" is essential for cruising, I offer our voyage as proof otherwise. . . .

I think that conclusion is valid only when you consider the boat you are sailing. There are many things that a small nimble sailboat can do that larger sailing boat cannot do. That is the beauty of having a small sailboat.
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Old 27-03-2012, 13:28   #3
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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I think that conclusion is valid only when you consider the boat you are sailing. There are many things that a small nimble sailboat can do that larger sailing boat cannot do. That is the beauty of having a small sailboat.
What do people think is the upper limit displacement wise, for cruising with electric propulsion, given current technology? Besides Nigel Calder's current blog (link below) where can I look to see an overview of current technology, etc.?

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Old 27-03-2012, 13:36   #4
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

There is no upper limit. The biggest are already using electric propulsion.
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Old 27-03-2012, 13:46   #5
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

Thanks. Practically speaking, can one cruise with electric propulsion in a 10 to 15,000 pound boat? And can you recommend a site that discusses the system for doing that?
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:09   #6
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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Originally Posted by speedoo View Post
What do people think is the upper limit displacement wise, for cruising with electric propulsion, given current technology? Besides Nigel Calder's current blog (link below) where can I look to see an overview of current technology, etc.?
Blog
I think the word "limit" is misused. Like "abh" said there is no "upper limit" as in fact the giant cruise ships are using electric propulsion.

Instead, IHMO, there is a hurdle that exists somewhere in the cost of electric storage (batteries) and generation (diesel generators) where the cost of supplying long term or continuous "fuel" (electrical energy) to drive the electric propulsion becomes uncompetitive with conventional diesel/gas propulsion system.

For example there is no actual limit to the speed of a sailboat. But to exceed what is known as "hull speed" you need enough propulsion power to get the boat out of the water and planning. Or you can take advantage of giant waves and "surf" down them - if you are good.

Look at the MacGregor sailboats, they can be put up on "plane" and scream along, but normally you need a rather large hp outboard to do that.

It is really just a matter of how much you are willing to spend. Outfit your boat with experimental super hi-tech batteries and super efficient genset(s) and you can run electric propulsion to rival any conventional propulsion systems in any size boat. It just is going to cost some money.

But with small boats you can minimize the size of electric propulsion needed which in turn reduces the size of storage and generation needed. After all, many inland and such prohibit anything other than rowing, paddling or electric propulsion on boats and a market for such units is thriving.
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:17   #7
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

I don't think anyone said that a diesel engine is essential to cruising. Just look at the Pardys, for an example of long-distance cruisers who are quite happy without any internal combustion on board.

It must be exhilarating to go long distances with practically nothing but sails to get you there. Reminds me of my first (two) boats and a different era of my life. Most of us have diesel-powered boats with auxiliary sail, not the other way around. We motor everywhere unless the wind is just right.

More power to you. Stay well clear of those lee shores, however, y' hear?
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:30   #8
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

Hogan,

It wasn't me, I've been pro electric for quite awhile, even have (3) EVs for land transportation. As to a gathering point for what is happening in marine EP, I've tried to collect links and keep up to date here Integration of systems

Keep up the good cruising and keep us posted, I know Capt Mike, others, and me are all ears for your reports.
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:55   #9
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

A few comments.

1. Never knew there was any doubt that one could cruise without an engine. Sailors cruised the world for hundreds of years before motors were invented. The Pardeys and many others have done it in modern times.

2. Some places you cannot go, safely or sometimes not at all, without an engine. One example ICW on the east coast. Even if you managed to sail the ICW it is not allowed (nor is it prudent) to sail through many of the opening bridges. I have not been there but have read about passes on the downwind side of coral atolls that are too narrow to tack, have a constant, strong outgoing current and are dead into the prevailing winds. Would not try that without an engine.

3. Agree with Osirissail that there is no limit on boat size that you can power with electric. The problem is, the systems that are currently available, especially for larger boats, are 2-3 times more expensive than a regular ICE, especially if you include the generator necessary for extended cruising under power.

NOTE: Comment #3 cost is based on all the commercially available systems I have been able to locate. However I have been following threads on the forum that linked to commercial electric motors that sell for a fraction of what the "marine" electrics sell for. So far I have found no one who can explain why a 12-15KW marine electric motor sells for $5,000 and up but a commercial electric motor with equal or higher power can be bought for under a thousand. This is an apples to apples comparison from what I can tell, continuous power rating against continuous power, not peak. Any one have any idea?
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Old 27-03-2012, 21:26   #10
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

That is why I always offer this link for 13Kw cont., 30KW peak motors for $700.
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Old 27-03-2012, 21:44   #11
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

The ones they put in yachts probably have to go through more costly testing so they can prove it isn't going to be a danger, add that allot of the cheap ones are replacement parts not the new systems. The older stuff has already paid for it's R&D and has to compete with everything else on the market while the new "Thing" has yet to pay it's cost on the market and since it is the newest "Thing" people have to have it. Another factor would be they are marketing allot of those to people that are paying 500k+ for a boat that also feel inclined to save the whales. Apple jumps to mind. You can usually go out and find something for cheaper that will last longer, use less energy and is more powerful but people seem to like too keep buying them like mad even though they cost more and allot of the time you have to buy a warranty. Guess I'll quit poking at Apple. Another factor is allot of the complete systems have shielded corrosion resistant computers built into them that are designed to keep them from operating outside there spacific design paramaters and also have sensors that can tie into a bigger system for more control over the equipment.

Pretty much just 1/2 a million gadgets that allot of smaller boats don't need but probably required on larger yachts so you don't have a lawsuit when some ones boat locks open and he crashes a 50+ footer into a bunch of equally expensive property.

Just my opinion on what I've been looking through lately.

Though I have noticed that allot of the off the shelf ones of the more expensive variety tend to come with every basic part you need to install it.
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Old 28-03-2012, 07:14   #12
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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Originally Posted by deckofficer View Post
That is why I always offer this link for 13Kw cont., 30KW peak motors for $700.
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Hi Bob,

Thanks for reposting that link. Exactly the one I was referring to. I thought that was you that put it out originally and had saved it somewhere but my last post was late last night and I was too lazy (tired) to try to find it.

So, what's your opinion on the huge price difference between this electric motor and the multi thousand dollar "marine" units? Sure the marine units do include some nice, prefabricated SS hardware, mounting brackets and such but I can do that for a whole lot less than a few grand. Are they really that good, is the motor you found a piece of junk that will burn out in 6 months (probably not)?

Just for another point of reference, we have a Prius hybrid which runs quite well and has plenty of power so I called Toyota to find out what a new electric motor for the Prius would cost. Less than $1000. Have to look up the rating but as I recall around 35 HP (45 kW). I know those motors are solid and expect a minimum of 200,000 miles and probably more from the car.

So have you had a chance to use one of the motors from the source you found? What do you think? Hope you hurry up and build you an electric rig so I can copy what you do and benefit from all your hard work.
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Old 28-03-2012, 07:22   #13
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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Originally Posted by sycpuppy View Post
The ones they put in yachts probably have to go through more costly testing so they can prove it isn't going to be a danger, add that allot of the cheap ones are replacement parts not the new systems. The older stuff has already paid for it's R&D and has to compete with everything else on the market while the new "Thing" has yet to pay it's cost on the market and since it is the newest "Thing" people have to have it. Another factor would be they are marketing allot of those to people that are paying 500k+ for a boat that also feel inclined to save the whales. Apple jumps to mind. You can usually go out and find something for cheaper that will last longer, use less energy and is more powerful but people seem to like too keep buying them like mad even though they cost more and allot of the time you have to buy a warranty. Guess I'll quit poking at Apple. Another factor is allot of the complete systems have shielded corrosion resistant computers built into them that are designed to keep them from operating outside there spacific design paramaters and also have sensors that can tie into a bigger system for more control over the equipment.

Pretty much just 1/2 a million gadgets that allot of smaller boats don't need but probably required on larger yachts so you don't have a lawsuit when some ones boat locks open and he crashes a 50+ footer into a bunch of equally expensive property.

Just my opinion on what I've been looking through lately.

Though I have noticed that allot of the off the shelf ones of the more expensive variety tend to come with every basic part you need to install it.
All factors I have considered and probably mostly true but a couple of comments.

First I doubt the marine motors are custom designed and manufactured solely for the sellers of marine electric propulsion systems. Almost certainly they are using an already existing motor and adapting it for their application.

Second, the marine systems I have looked at in person do have really nice, prefabricated, ready to bolt up hardware, controllers, etc but it's still hard for me to see how that is worth as much as $10,000.

I think that it is possible to build a marine electric system for a fraction of what current suppliers are charging. Certainly electric propulsion will never see widespread use in the marine market until the prices drop significantly.
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Old 28-03-2012, 08:02   #14
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

Hogan:

Congrats on your journey. Nice to see other EP boats heading off to paradise wherever that might be. You are finding as I did that some of the backup systems (i.e. watergenerator) are often not needed. How many watts of solar do you have installed?
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Old 28-03-2012, 08:06   #15
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Re: Electric Propulsion Update

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Thanks. Practically speaking, can one cruise with electric propulsion in a 10 to 15,000 pound boat? And can you recommend a site that discusses the system for doing that?
I'm about to start my fifth season with electric propulsion. Pulled out my diesel and installed an EP system on my 16,000 lb 30 foot Nonsuch and never looked back:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: Going electric: Part 1: The why and how
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