Features

September 2008 Issue

Electric and Hybrid Propulsion for Sailboats

Practical Sailor looks at the players in the developing field of electric auxiliary engines

How soon will electric auxiliary engines be available to all sailboat owners? Opinions differ on what type of drive system could surge to the forefront and whether the concept of electric propulsion itself is viable in recreational sailboats. Opinions also differ as to what system is best: a pure diesel-electric drive train with a hybrid-electric drive with a diesel generator as a back up or a pure electric drive with regeneration capability. Practical Sailor talks with companies developing DC motors, including ASMO Marine, Above the Waterline, Vetus Marine, Electric Marine Propulsion, Glacier Bay, Re-e-power, Polar Power Inc., Fischer Panda, and Solomon Technologies. Glacier Bay is concentrating on diesel-electric drives using Ossa Powerlite technology, and ASMO Marine is developing the Thoosa line of DC motors. Much of the movement toward electric motors is taking place in the catamaran world, with Lagoon Catamarans leading the push. Corsair Marine is working on a diesel-electric catamaran, and Maine Cat has also experimented with electric engines. Duffy Electric Boats has for years been building electric-drive-only auxiliary engines. One major issue in developing these systems is the safety of high-voltage DC. ABYC has yet to set a standard for high-voltage DC safety aboard a vessel, and Jim Nolan of BoatUS said there is no clear-cut guidance regarding insuring boats with electric propulsion.

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