Nick O’Kelly interviewed South African Catamaran owner, Rean Snyman who recently converted the diesel engines on his Ocean 580 Cruising Catamaran, Top Secret, to Electric motors.
Rean Snyman says; “I would say that any boat producer today, making a production boat, that doesn’t consider electric (propulsion) isn’t doing their research and they are going to lose out. It’s a no-brainer. Battery technology is all that we have needed to make this worthwhile and we have that now. So, lithium ion batteries are more than capable and I am sure that there will be different battery technologies in the future that are just going to kill lithium ion.
“Electric motors use a lot of electricity. There is a small problem with electrics and that is range – you cannot have enough batteries on your boat to support a cruising lifestyle. For a weekend vessel using the electric motors 2 -3 hours at a time, no problem. If you need to motor for 2 days in bad weather then you can’t. So you do need a diesel DC generator. The way to go is with DC everything. Electric saves a lot of weight.
“The torque on these motors is ludicrous. If you want to go fast then you use diesel, if you want torque you go electric. With an electric motor you need less power, but you will go slower. Now we will do 5.5 knots with the DC Genset running keeping the batteries topped up where before with the diesel engines we would be doing 7 knots. This boat could do 10 knots before and now with the electric motors maybe 8 knots. In a strong wind and strong current we use little power to maintain 4 knots headway whereas with the diesel we would be using much more power.
“The nice thing about the electric motors is motor sailing – we get an extra 2 knots and we can maintain that for 10 to 11 hours. Then, when the boat starts to move that speed allows the regen function to kick in. If the boat is doing 7 knots then it is regenerating power.
“The most convenient thing is the safety factor – if you are surfing down waves with a spinnaker up and a following sea – when you increase speed down a wave your rig loses load, the spinnaker wants to collapse then you get to the bottom of that wave your spinnaker loads up, the rig loads up and pop you are pulled again. Now when you are regenerating the faster you go the more drag you got so when you start surfing that thing pulls you back, keeps your sails loaded up, when you get to the bottom of that wave you slow down a little bit, there’s less friction and it lets you go. Under regen it keeps the load on the spinnaker. That is a massive selling point for an electric motor.”
Snyman’s boat is a Voyager 580 Catamaran – 58 feet long, 31 feet beam (wide) and a draft of around 5.5 feet
The electric specs are:
- 4 Oceanvolt electric motors *
- 2 Battery Banks – Propulsion (48 volt 24 kWh drained down to minimum of 20%) and House (24 volt 8 kWh drained down to minimum of 15%)
- 38 100 watt solar panels – mounted on lexan sheet which aids with cooling. 20 panels divided into 4 strings for the 48 volt propulsion bank and the rest for the 24 volt house bank.
- 8 controllers
- 2 inverters
- Solar Array produces 12 to 15 kWh in a day (Snyman uses 8 to 9 kWh per day and up to 11 kWh at night – no motoring). Three shady days in a row mean that he diesel DC Generator must be used.
- House bank is charged via solar or the 48 volt propulsion bank. The round trip of 48 volts stepped up to to 230 AC and stepped down to 24 volt DC loses around 20%.
Top Secret’s Electric motor system is the Oceanvolt SEA60 with 4 x Oceanvolt SD15 electric sail drive motors. A single motor and sail drive weighs 42.5 kg. Each motor has a nominal power of 15kW working off of 48 Volts and weighing 186 kg for the system.
With electric motors you sail more.
The Solar Array is in this video:
See more from Nick and Megan O’ Kelly here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ6tJAU-6N68ZhTRXyY0Tnw
You can help the quiet revolution along by installing an EV Charging station outside your Guest House, Hotel, Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Shopping Centre or in your forecourt. Contact Straton Electrical for EV Charging Station options.
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