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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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  #1  
Old 11-04-2002
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what if !

I am not a tree hugger but the cost of fuel is going up. I have in the past seen electric motors listed for propulsion.Is it even possible to have enough battery/ies and the components used to charge them to sail the coast or for that matter circumnavigate the globe useing a system such as this.? It sure would be nice not to worry about dirty fuel or changing filters/oil/fuel and other than fresh water systems the need to winterize would all but be a past memory.Engineers and dreamers respond.
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Old 11-04-2002
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A solar energy sales and installation guy out on the east end of Long Island, NY made a canopy of solar cells over his sailboat to power his motor. Nice, but no room for the sail! The tech is always improving, think there are "rollup" solar panels available now, so maybe on those days when you''re becalmed you could roll out the panels to catch the rays and store up the batteries? Maybe fuel cells would be the answer--break down sea water into hydrogen and oxygen...
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Old 11-04-2002
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the fuel cell idea isn''t bad but why can''t they develope a hydrogen motor and use the solar panels to break the water down. I had another hair brained idea and that was useing a wind generator to provide power for a compresser and shore compressed air for propulsion using an air motoralthough you would still need bateries for lights etc it might be workable it seems like it would be nice not to worry about fuel or even the cost,and availability of fuel, just worry about food and water and the next cold one.
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Old 11-04-2002
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[I just lost a long post due to a computer glitch, so this will have to be short.]

There is a lot going on with electric and alternative propulsion I don''t have time to research, but a few things to consider:

The amount of energy you can store by compressing gas is minimal compared to many other methods. You would need an enormous rack of tanks and an expensive compressor to charge them all at high pressure. Even then, you would have very little operating capacity.

Using an electric motor and battery bank, you would similarly have to use an extremely large and heavy set of batteries to operate for very long. Recharging the batteries would take a good while and require either shore power, or a huge array of solar panels (assuming there''s adequate sunlight), or several high-output wind generators (assuming there''s adequate wind).

There is a reason why liquid hydrocarbon fuels are so popular; they are very efficient for storing energy. Plus, the fuel mixture you burn in the engine is getting around 93% of its mass from the atmosphere. That''s about 15 pounds of air for every pound of fuel that you don''t have to carry around or pay for.

I''m not saying that something better won''t come along someday, but there is still no free lunch.

Duane
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Old 11-04-2002
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Okay, here''s a weird idea for those with more gray matter than me. A sail boat with en electric motor for its non-wind driven propulsion. This motor would get its energy from a bank of solar panels and one or two wind generators. Of course there there would be a large battery bank to store all this energy. And as a back-up to everything else, a diesel generator. I''m guessing one could(in theory) do a trans-atlantic crossing without putting up the sails. Just a thought I had while enjoying one of natures herbs.....
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Old 11-04-2002
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I am finishing a Allegra 24 and have just been through the same considerations you are going through. It actually is pretty practical if your needs are in the 5 to 10 Hp range. Ou can buy an engine, controller and a bank of batteries for under $2000. Then, the major fact one has to take into account is how long you might want to run your engine in normal usage. I wanted to be able to run at 5 knots for 6 hours and I found I could locate a bank of batteries under the floor-boards that would do that.
The batteries and motor are heavier than the diesel engine and fuel tank. I figured about a couple of hundred pounds more.
You do not have to be a tree hugger to want to get away from the noise, stink, and vibration of a diesel.
Carting along a small Honda gas generater is an interesting charging option.
Have fun!
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Old 11-04-2002
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Everbody had some sort of great ideas (I thought). And KenD - if you''re doing a circumnavigation, why put yourself in the need to winterize at all? Just "go where it''s warm" to kinda quote Jimmy Buffett (yuck, but there it is). I was sorry Duane''s original was lost to a glitch, but maybe he or someone knows - is there any type of motor run on any type of auxiliary power source that would not need any oil, thus filters, to run?
And, unless you trailor or live where the water freezes, (saleswoman talking here) you can buy a bilge heater and have the use of your baby all year long.
Nice to see a decent conversation,
MaryBeth
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Old 11-05-2002
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Mary Beth,

I''m not sure I understand your question properly. By "motor", I assume you mean an electric motor. When you say "auxiliary power source that would not need any oil, thus filters, to run", I''m confused.

One type of auxiliary power source you can use to supply an electric motor''s power needs is a generator coupled with a mechanical power source of some kind. This is usually an internal-combustion engine running on diesel or gasoline, but the four-stroke designs need lubricating oil to function. Two-stroke gasoline designs mix a small amount of lubricating oil in with the fuel to lubricate the bearings and thus don''t have a traditional oil pan and filters.

Getting away from internal combustion engines altogether, you can couple that generator to a wind vane, or to a water-turbine that you tow while under sail. In the latter case you are still converting wind power to electric power if you are making way, or tidal currents to electrical power if you are anchored in a fierce current (at least theoretically speaking).

Keep in mind that for every conversion from one type to another (wind-mechanical-electric; chemical fuel-mechanical-electrical; sunlight-electrical), there is a loss.

So, did anything I said answer any questions you had? I''m still not sure where the "filter" concern comes in.

Regards,
Duane
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Old 11-05-2002
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I believe the filter concern was my musing on the fact that it would be nice not to deal with them ever again,not to mention pumping oil (really mean dripping oil all over ) no contaminates in the bilge,no exploseive surprises when fueling (although batteries will blow in the right conditions,I better stop this is starting to sound like a Paul Mccarthy song. and yes unless we can come up with a perpetual motion machine thier is always energy loss. Oh well as they say there''s no free lunch! some really good ideas are being tossed around maybe theres hope yet. Fair winds to all. ken
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Old 11-05-2002
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Hi, KenD.

That was a funny reference to the Beatles'' song "Imagine," but it was by John Lennon [I''m a real PITA sometimes, huh? ;-) ] Thanks for reminding me where the "filter" mention came up.

In my view, I think it''s great to try to capitalize on "free" and natural forces as much as practicable. As long as you employ multiple energy sources (e.g. wind, solar), and can tolerate those times when nothing will be available, you would hopefully never miss having an internal combustion engine. Heck, some sailors still do long-range cruising without auxiliary power.

Thanks to all for the good discussion so far.

Duane
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