A glimpse of marine propulsion in the future was offered by the finalists of this year’s Royal Thames YC Mansura Trophy, awarded to the most innovative companies in the field of electric and hybrid propulsion.
Overall winner was Gideon Goudsmit’s FastCat 445 Green Motion World Cruiser, which makes fossil fuel free ocean cruising a reality. The concept of this 44ft cruising cat was proven in a voyage from South Africa to Holland. “I’ve worked on this project for eight years, with many mishaps along the way, but we’ve succeeded in our objective of creating a fossil-fuel free ocean going boat,” he says.
In addition to solar and wind generators providing electrical power, the boat’s motors can be used as generators when sailing. The system generates energy for propulsion, hot water, cooking and all electrical equipment, with lithium-ion batteries providing range under power of over 80 nautical miles, albeit at slow speed. Goudsmit has also developed a version for monohulls, with the drive retracting into the hull, which has obvious appeal for racing yachts as well as long-distance cruisers.
The medal for the greatest contribution to hybrid motors went to Agni Motors and Cedric Lynch. Lynch is a long-standing innovator whose motors are up to 93 per cent efficient – double that of the best diesel engines. They are used on a wide variety of boats, including a solar-powered ferry, fishing vessels and as auxiliary power for sailing yachts.
“We don’t target specific sectors,” says Agni CEO Arvind Rabadia. “We just build the best motors we can – the market is huge and growing rapidly. In the next few years we’ll see a lot more electrically driven boats. We’re investing a lot in improving the efficiency of our motors, and at the same time batteries and solar panels are becoming more efficient.” Agni’s 95-R motor looks deceptively petite – it’s only a few inches thick and the diameter of a dinner plate. Yet it develops 21bhp, with 40bhp available in short bursts, comparable with a diesel engine of many times the volume and weight.
Other finalists included Graham Hawksley’s Hybrid Marine, which has already won accolades for its integrated parallel hybrid drive and the Slovenian-designed Greenline 33 hybrid motor yacht, sold in the UK by Saltern’s Brokerage. Inland category winner was a 20ft solar-powered boat by Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Co. Cynics might cite the UK’s poor summers as a problem for solar power here, but the Electric Boat Association‘s Tony Rymell points out that long daylight hours in summer compensates for this.
So far electric propulsion has been a small market niche, but the tipping point at which this will change may be approaching. Another attendee at the awards, racing yachtsman and former RTYC vice commodore Robin Aisher, is looking at a different market for electric power – commuter motorbikes in the developing world. He anticipates huge growth, with millions of units sold. If that happens the economies of scale will benefit all users of electrical power, including boat owners.