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Old 28-08-2020, 08:27   #1
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Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Dear sailors

I have a 44 year old inboard Volvo MD6A (10 HP) in my 29' Maxi 87 GRP sailboat. I bought the boat two years ago.

It starts every time, but it is tired (max is 1600RPM, rated 2200) and underpowered for the waters that I am sailing.

I am considering an upgrade to a 18KW electric watercooled motor (Thunderstruck or similar) for the benefits of low maintenance, low overall noise level and sufficient power in rough conditions.
And the best : No more diesel fumes below, no more oil spills, no more oil and filter changes !!!

The electric motor and controller will be somewhat higher priced, including the LiFePO4 battery banks (all self installation).
Then there is the benefit of installing microwave oven and induction cooker to improve safety in the galley.
It can be charged at any marina berth plug for a quick charge, and by solar panels for general slow charge (at no cost).

I am aware that the range is limited to the battery bank's capacity, so I will dimension the battery banks for 2 hours of sailing at 5.5 knots for bad conditions.

Here is my questions for you :
1) If YOU were to buy a used sailboat with a new engine, would you prefer an electric or diesel engine ?
2) Anyone of you with user experience of the reliability and use of electric motors in sailboats ?
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Old 28-08-2020, 16:22   #2
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Understand and confirm your own use case.

Two hours at 5.5 knots? And then your batteries are dead and you can't operate the other appliances you're considering? Is that what you really want?

In my regular "sailing" there are frequently periods when I want / need to motor all day, maybe for a couple of days. Any system that couldn't support that wouldn't work for me. Maybe it's okay for you.
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Old 28-08-2020, 17:59   #3
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Just realize this is only going to be useful to motor in and out of the marina to go on a day sail.

You won’t be doing much motoring aside from that.

You’ll need to be very good at sailing and have a great sail inventory for light airs.

1) I would prefer a Diesel engine in case I wanted to motor in various conditions or if my rig was damaged and I was unable to sail back.

This proposed electric engine setup weakens your position of safety to some extent.
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Old 28-08-2020, 18:49   #4
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Electric would whenever outstanding for a boat that was berthed in one marina and never went anywhere except to day sail in the bay.
Now that may sound condescending, but it’s not meant to be, I believe there are more boats that do that than go out cruising.
Forget recharging propulsion batteries with Solar, that’s a fantasy, most have trouble getting by running their refrigeration, a few claim to cook electrically off of Solar, but I maintain what they are calling cooking is merely reheating food and they motor more often than they think and get a lot of power of course when they do.
Now there is nothing wrong with that either, but to honestly live and cook off of Solar is tough and takes people who are very aware of their power consumption and go to extremes to mitigate it.
Some are just so experienced and have done it for so long, it’s just a way of life for them, so they think it’s easy, but to the average person who is used to unlimited power that just comes out of the wall, they can’t.
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Old 28-08-2020, 19:09   #5
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

What everyone else has said.
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Old 28-08-2020, 19:14   #6
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

I live in Denmark, and most people do coastal sailing.
My setup is not meant for world cruising.
However, please watch Youtube "Sailing Uma", a pure electric live-aboard 36' sailboat who criss-crossed the Caribbean and now also crossed the Atlantic.
The electric motor can recharge when sailing by sails.

People buy a sailboat for sailing, not motoring, in my mind :-)
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Old 28-08-2020, 19:15   #7
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

like electric cars, it depends on how you use it

if you only go out for day sails, then 2hrs @ 5.5k might be enough. on the other hand our present boat has a range of about 250hrs @ 6k (say 1500nm) and we would not accept anything much less.

btw, don't forget hot water. on most (all ?) boats the hws is set up to take waste heat from the engine exhaust to heat the water. you cannot do this with electric motor so need more solar / battery - or do without hot water (the owner here would kill me if she could not have her hot shower frequently !)

cheers,
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Old 28-08-2020, 19:39   #8
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstendenmark View Post
1) If YOU were to buy a used sailboat with a new engine, would you prefer an electric or diesel engine ?
2) Anyone of you with user experience of the reliability and use of electric motors in sailboats ?

I have an electric car (Chevrolet Bolt). It's great. I drive it everywhere. I like electric propulsion.


I have a 26' sailboat with an outboard motor. I've had the outboard motor for 3 years; I used it on my previous sailboat. There have been several times I've run the motor for more than 2 hours straight with the record probably being about 10 hours.


The longest runs have been river passages up and down the Mississippi, and have been planned, because it is generally not possible to sail this reach. They were fun trips, and I would have missed out on them if I had electric propulsion with only two hours of battery.


There have been trips where we went out in light airs and there wasn't enough wind to sail. Typically this has been in light and variable conditions where the wind did not come from a sufficiently consistent direction for us to sail. Less often we could only move the boat at 1-2 knots, which isn't fun. I usually fire up the motor when we can't sustain close to 2 knots.


Finally there have been days where there was more wind and wave than we perhaps wanted and where time pressures, deteriorating weather, or escalating discomfort or illness of crew/guests led to a decision to quit beating and fire up the motor. 2 hours isn't a lot when there's already been some routine use and when some reserve has to be kept and there is some uncertainty exactly how much charge remains.


In another age when sailing was different, harbors had facilities for warping in, and tolerance for discomfort and delay was greater, boats didn't have motors. Times have changed.
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Old 28-08-2020, 21:52   #9
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Hoy, Jammer
I see the problem in rivers and when sailing in heavy sea currents.
Planning the trip is a large part of sailing, and weather and current forecasts in Denmark are quite reliable.
Again, my boat is mainly to be used in coastal sea waters.
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Old 29-08-2020, 01:45   #10
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstendenmark View Post
Hoy, Jammer
I see the problem in rivers and when sailing in heavy sea currents.
Planning the trip is a large part of sailing, and weather and current forecasts in Denmark are quite reliable.
Again, my boat is mainly to be used in coastal sea waters.
Then you have already made the decision and the electric motor is going to me fine.
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Old 29-08-2020, 03:19   #11
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

1. If the boat had space for a large solar array, large lithium bank, and it had a generator installed; I would go for electric propulsion. Obviously, depends on the type of use and location.
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Old 29-08-2020, 09:36   #12
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

One way to check the resale-ability, at least in today's market, would be to do a search on the various used boating websites for your size range powered by electricity. That should give you an idea of what's out there and what they are asking. If you have a friendly broker he can also search to see what recent sales have been. This could also serve to validate your ROI. BTW have you looked at having your existing diesel overhauled, injectors rebuilt etc.?
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Old 29-08-2020, 09:39   #13
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Perhaps you might like to contact Matt Mortensen at Great Bear Charters (info@greatbearcharters.com) and ask for his thoughts. They have fairly recently replaced dual Volvo's with electric drives. You might find these specs interesting; although the scale of vessels differs significantly. Nevertheless their experiences might be useful.

Quite simply put, the most environmentally friendly way to travel vast distances on this planet is aboard a sail boat, and it just got cleaner. Introducing Singawing’s new serial hybrid electric propulsion system.
Whether powered by hydro-electricity, wind, solar, tide, or an extremely efficient diesel engine, Singawing has drastically lowered her carbon and emissions footprint.

Borrowed from the research and development of the world’s leading electric car manufacturers, hybrid and electric boat technologies have arrived and Singawing is a proof of concept that you can experience.

Using clean renewable energy from the Pacific Northwest hydro powered grid, Singawing is capable of storing over 50 KWH of energy in her big lithium battery bank. This energy can sustain the vessels house hold power needs for up to 10
days without sunlight, or propel this 74-thousand-pound vessel for 25 miles, before the wind even begins to blow. When the wind does blow under sail, her system can regenerate power by spinning the propellers in reverse, charging the battery back to full.

Welcome to a better sailing experience, welcome to more intimate, less intrusive wildlife viewing, welcome to a quieter anchorage.
• All electric range: 25 to 30 miles
• Regenerative recharge time: 4 to 5 hours
Shore power recharge time: 6 hours
• Solar power recharge: 40 hours
• Diesel electric recharge time: 1.25 hours underway
• Battery autonomy house loads: 10 days
• Battery autonomy with cabin heat: 2 days
• Stationary recharge time: 45 min
• Horse power: 260
• Kilowatts: 193900
• Electric top speed: 9.6 knots
• Battery storage: 50 kilowatt’s
• Decibels in saloon, electric mode: 55
• Decibels in saloon. diesel electric: 65
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Old 29-08-2020, 09:51   #14
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

To your solar electric boat you can add a petrol or diesel generator to extend your range and make up for cloudy days. With a prop driven generator you can add power while on passage, assuming there is plenty of wind. You can maximize your solar panel size. Some incline their panels to improve panel efficiency when the sun is low. There are wind turbines but I don't abide by them. All this is likely more expensive and more complicated than repowering with diesel. But, the clean, quiet upside is there.
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Old 29-08-2020, 09:52   #15
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Re: Sail boat engine choice - electric or diesel

Check out "Sailing Uma" on YouTube.
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