does it make sense to buy a boat without an engine and convert it to electric? - Page 3 - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #21  
Old 02-24-2010
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Tager—

I don't think that electric propulsion, especially non-hybrid electric propulsion that relies solely on batteries for the electrical power, is possible or reasonable on boats today given the current state of batteries and such.

If you're going to bother with hybrid electric technology, you've just added a lot of weight and complexity for very little real benefit—since you've got the diesel engine in the form of a genset....why not just use a traditional diesel inboard instead and dump a lot of excess weight in batteries and electric motors?

While diesel electric hybrids have been successfully used on a lot of vessels, they're really not well suited for small sailing craft, given the current state of the technology. The equipment required by the Fischer Panda setup or any of the comparable systems isn't going to be a money saving measure, which is kind of what the point of going with electric was in the OP.

It isn't that I don't think it is possible...but that I don't think that it is feasible given current technology. Maybe you're not capable of understanding the difference...but there is one.
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  #22  
Old 02-24-2010
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Alright, I'm convinced, my plan is stupid (for now). Especially as a money saving measure.

Perhaps in a few more years, when we have better energy storage technologies, such as fuel cells... or personal nuclear reactors.
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  #23  
Old 02-24-2010
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rmeador-

I converted and drove a '74 VW Beetle that I converted to 100% battery-electric drive. I put 10,000 miles on that car, drove it to work and errands every day, I drove it on the highway at 65-70 mph, in Maryland foothills.

There's a lot of partially correct information in this thread. As someone who's actually employed electric propulsion in his daily life for a full year, I'll give you my opinion:

1. If you're going to do this, yes- buy a boat with a "dead" engine. Sell the engine and associated parts & systems to defray the cost of the conversion. No, this will not be "cost effective". At today's current petroleum prices, you will just about break even. It will cost you years to recoup your investment. You'll recoup faster if fuel prices rise faster and stay there.

2. Sailingdog is right- This is NOT for long-range auxiliary propulsion. If you choose to do this, you need to accept that you could run out of juice at an inopportune moment until you learn the actual load curves. You can run all the math you want, but you won't know exactly until you install and employ the system.

3. The motor does NOT have to be large. Electric motors offer large amounts of torque in a compact package. Batteries, their weight, their distribution, the space they will hog and their care is going to be your real problem.

4. Batteries- You can use lead for about $80-120 per battery or you can use Lithium which will run you a total of about $7,000 for just the batteries and maybe the BMS which keeps them equalized without destroying them.

5. Scope: A battery pack of this size would take ages to charge by onboard solar or wind gennies. You'd have to totally upholster your boat in panels. The cost would be great, and it'd take even longer to recoup your investment.

6. Hybrid: Even more space, more cost, more complexity, more things to go wrong. Go electric, or go conventional.

Finally, it's not a stupid idea at all. You just need to accept the limitations of current battery technology, costs and availability. If you don't want to do that, then buy a boat with a working engine.

My Beetle fit my life perfectly. I drove it 30 miles round-trip per day to the Metro, and rode the train to the Pentagon for work every day. I ran tons of errands. I drove it 50 miles round-trip to Baltimore for reserve duty drill weekends once per month.

Why did I sell? Because I lived in a townhouse and the HOA after much head-scratching, told me that I couldn't string the charging cord across the sidewalk to my house to charge it anymore. They said it was a legal liability. I sold the car, and sold the townhouse. I hope to own another one soon.

Hope that helps.
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  #24  
Old 02-24-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
6. Hybrid: Even more space, more cost, more complexity, more things to go wrong. Go electric, or go conventional.
As complex as the S10 that used a Honda Generator sitting on the top of the box with the charger plugged into it. Not sure how long he used it, at least a week, likely longer as he was using it to put off a new bank.

But a sailboat can charge will sailing so there will be power available at the end of every day.

And Batteries are not a problem provided the project boat is purchased or built with that in mind. Many sail boats carry tons of ballast, so weight is only a concern for racers or performance sailers (those boats will use carbon fiber to save wieght). Can't replace all the ballast....well maybe you could but remove all the ballast at once and a sailboat flips.

The only real problem is cost. That will come down a few years after electric cars are once again cheaper.

Recall those discusssions, just over a hundred years ago. Diesel and gas engines will never catch on because they are too complex, explosive, not reliable and much too expensive. The number of machined parts alone mean they will never replace the simple cheap electric drives.
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I guess I should dump my electric auxiliary sailboat. I didn't realize it didn't work :-). Can you really remove an Atomic 4 and (completely) replace it with a new diesel for $6000?
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Old 02-24-2010
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Originally Posted by Mark F View Post
I guess I should dump my electric auxiliary sailboat. I didn't realize it didn't work :-). Can you really remove an Atomic 4 and (completely) replace it with a new diesel for $6000?
You can buy a Beta 14 diesel with trans and pannel for a bit more than 6k new BUT thats a LONG way from installed

There are a bunch of costs involved like fuel tanks, filters, prop and shaft ect ect ect

BUt its not like anybody is selling and electric drive that will drop right into the A4 location like the Beta does
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Old 02-24-2010
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I put an electric motor in my Oday and it points 10 degrees higher and sails much faster. I hooked it up to my flux capacitor. It doesn't even need batteries! It runs off the methane from my composting toilet. Tomorrow i'm going to clean 24 inches of snow off of it and i never even took the genoa off for the winter....ah the joys of owning a crappy boat!
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Old 02-24-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tommays View Post
You can buy a Beta 14 diesel with trans and pannel for a bit more than 6k new BUT thats a LONG way from installed

There are a bunch of costs involved like fuel tanks, filters, prop and shaft ect ect ect

BUt its not like anybody is selling and electric drive that will drop right into the A4 location like the Beta does
tommays,

The electric motor I have (SolidNav Explorer) was engineered to be an Atomic 4 drop-in replacement. The motor install itself takes maybe an hour. That's the easy part.
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Old 02-24-2010
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It is not less expensive... I have my electric drive installed, so this is real world experience. Replacing the A4 with a diesel would have been about the same after new tanks, etc. You also must understand the shortcomings of current technology. As others have stated, petroleum is an incredibly dense energy storage medium. Lead and acid, and their modern cousins do not come close.
Because the field (as relates to modern sailing craft) is quite new, the learning curve to get a working system is pretty high. It takes time, and a very inquisitive nature to ferret out the info needed to make it happen.
BUT: It is a cool project and a lot of fun. I absolutely love my system, and enjoyed putting it together. I wouldn't go so far as to say 'it makes sense'!
FWIW
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Braidmike-

What is your system voltage and where are you storing the batteries? As Arch said above, sailboats are meant to carry ballast but you can't just put them all down in the bilge. They need to be accessible for maintenance (topping off with water, or at least cleaning and checking the terminal connections) Battery manufacturers aren't exactly designing batteries in special shapes with sailboats in mind. How did you overcome all of that?
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