Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Gloucester, MA
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Why are you interested in this? Is it the appeal of a much larger generator, is it the appeal of silent cruising, is it the desire to burn less fuel or is it something else?
The Beta system is a parallel hybrid where both the engine and motor are directly coupled to the shaft. In my opinion, parallel hybrids do not make a lot of sense for the vast majority of cruising sailboats although there are exceptions. ~95% of the time, we run the engine at a cruising speed where the engine has plenty of power. During this running condition, the generator/motor will be doing nothing unless you have deeply discharged a very large battery bank. A 10KW output is actually greater than most of our battery banks can take for a steady charge rate and even if they can, it will be very inefficient due to heat buildup. During the other times, you will either be idling or running pretty hard. While idling, the hybrid doesn't help you unless it shuts down which I don't believe that this unit does (please correct me if I am wrong). At high power levels, you can actually get some extra power by using both the engine and the motor which can be good but is rarely necessary. Hybrid systems in general are often marketed as fuel saving but they really aren't for the way most people use the drive system in a sailboat (powerboats are a bit different) since the electric drive will be doing nothing most of the time. Unless you use the regen feature an awful lot and then use the electric drive, you won't save any fuel.
There are a few reasons that I can think of which may make this sort of thing make sense, here are the ones that I can think of. Someone looking for a drive system that is relatively small displacement but can briefly have a much higher output. Also, someone who has large electrical loads and wants to be able to charge more quickly. Someone with a large battery bank who wants to be able to take short trips without the engine. Going along with that, someone who has very good reliable wind where they sail may get a lot of benefit out of the regen feature. All of these reasons may cause someone to want to get one of these units but it would be tough to justify for the vast majority of us in my opinion.
In the picture and the CAD model, it looks like the electric motor is a model made by Lynch. If this is correct, they are a poorly designed motor which have trouble hitting their specifications and tend to overheat and have other problems. I would also be interested to see what the charge control on this system is and how efficient/inefficient it is. It is a little troubling to me that they use the same motor/generator for all engine sizes.
In general, I really like Beta marine products and plan on installing one in my current boat if I ever need to repower. However, I will not be putting a parallel hybrid system in because I wouldn't get any extra benefits out of it and would have added cost and complexity. Parallel hybrids in cars and boats are very different beasts.