"Let's just be clear, Beneteau
(my he owner of Lagoon) spent a huge amount of money
and time bringing the electric catamarans to the market. Eventually they walked away from the technology because they couldn't get it to work within the expectations of their customers."
This was an interesting situation and a disappointment to many who purchased the Lagoon 420
. I won't go into the details other than to say after the 410 was launched successfully Lagoon
decided to go their own way and develope their own EB. It was proven that the 410 Electric worked and on paper it made sense to do it themselves so with a new hull
design based on the installation
of Lead Acid batteries in the lower part of the boat they ended up with a much more rounded bottom. More on that later.
(and most of the larger manufactures) depend on selling their boats to the charter
business they sold the 420E as a low maintenance
boat that would require little attention because all would be automated. So they went about designing an EB around a 72V system. Now back then there was very little in the way of hardware
and know how to build a "small" system off the shelf so ended up with some interesting promises and parts
cobbled together. Automated systems today are a little flaky but back then they where a guess and a prayer and required tinkering to maintain the system properly. The batteries where nothing special, in fact I believe they where the same ones used prior to their EB's for house banks and on the 410's. So off they went with a new hull
and a new system.
I don't have any idea of exactly how many where sold to individuals but the majority where put into the charter
business. One of the first things I had heard was there was a major issue with the automated Genset controls to charge and then shut down the genset prior to overcharging the batteries. This was suppose to be corrected with a software
update which seemed to take forever to come out. In the mean time boats where delivered to the Carib and the charter companies got a hold of them sending out clients who had little if no understanding (or cared) of a new system and promptly was killing battery
banks. Along with this the range wasn't what Lagoon had said it was going to be. Lagoon through it's service
department with The Catamaran
Company stationed a full time "mechanic" to work on the boats. To add insult to all this the new hull designs rounded bottom was slowing the boat down. To satisfy their main clients, the charter business, Lagoon retrofitted diesel engines in a large portion of the 420's and also had to include private owners in the refit
. To this day I have no idea how many are still Electric.
Lagoon recently published a special addition Magazine of the history
of it's boats and owners received a copy. From the first model to the "Water World" boats and into some plans for the future. In there there was 1 line about the 420E that all it said was the 420E was ahead of it's time. There was NO MENTION of the 410E which really pissed me off but that's another story.
Was the system ahead of it's time?
Yes and no.
Yes it isn't "idiot proof". You have to pay attention to "different" things than an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) boat. It's not a lot of differences but the main thing people kill on boats are the batteries. Now put a bunch of them on a boat and ignore them and your going to have a problem. Let's face it there are a lot of people out there that don't have a clue how their boat works let alone the electrical system
No it doesn't take a rocket scientist to maintain or operate one. Just some common sense. Mostly about batteries and charging
them. Nothing that a boat owner shouldn't know about their boat in the first place and maintenance
that is the same just more of it in the battery department. More and more parts
and systems are coming on line all the time.
In my case I'm dealing with a 144V pack of batteries. ANY TIME I'm working on the battery pack I disconnect all loads. I wear rubber gloves, I have a switch to break the 144V into 2 72V packs. My terminals are covered and I only remove one cover at a battery at a time. All systems are protected by fusses and I do nothing until all of the above is double checked and I have a procedure thought out. There is no more danger
than a typical house bank and for that matter a single "D" cell battery can get you just as dead under the right conditions. My "engine" room is spotless and dry.
There are a number of people out there that are converting boats of all different sizes to Electric Drives. Most are the 30' and under but are having a lot of success doing it. The reason this subject can easily go under "Theory" is because it is new to many. It gets my goat for people to say it doesn't work when I and many others see it does. Maybe we are looking for different results, might not be for everyone but if even a small number of tinkerers are playing with it and a few can improve on the system, some have business doing it, and we get that EB grin the hell with the rest of those saying "it just doesn't work".
The Bumble Bee is still flying!
Steve in Solomons MD