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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.
S/V Old Shoes
1973 Pearson 30 #255