Electric propulsion.

This will be the first of a series of blogs about electric boats, more specifically electric canal/river boats.

Firstly, we are boat builders. I am not a seasoned blogger nor writer. It may not be the easiest read, be grammatically correct or comparable to your favourite author, but hopefully everybody can learn something from its content. I will try to keep it reasonably simple and easy to understand. You won’t leave this article ready to wind your own motor or build your own speed control but will hopefully be able to decide if an electric boat is for you or not. Or at least, sift through the systems knowing the pro’s and con’s of each.

We welcome queries or questions to be sent to us, via the contact form or sales@finesseboats.co.uk

I’ll start with a topical question, this first will be somewhat of an overview, but over the coming weeks we will home in on the individual aspects in more detail.

Is this the time to ‘switch’ to electric?*

Over the last 7 or 8 years we have been asked this question many times, and I believe personally believe the point is now here, or at least very close. While the initial investment is still high. Now, over the life of the boat, an electric boat will be less expensive than a conventional diesel engine in most applications. We at Finesse would talk you through the costs/for and against based on each individual customers use throughout the life of the boat.

Over the years, we have tested most of the systems out there. From Hybrid, to DC brushed, AC Induction and Permanent magnet. Along with Lead acid, AGM, Lead Carbon, Traction, and a variety of Lithium batteries.

The first of a series of posts will be about the general overview of the systems and system types.

To keep it simple, we will concentrate on the idea’s we feel are viable, and have been used in the past.

All Electric– Just batteries and a motor, no diesel or gas, but renewable sources, like wind and solar to charge batteries, and of course a shore connection.

This method is probably the most idealistic, and simple.

In our case. It consists of a large PMAC (Permanent Magnet Alternating Current) motor. A large speed control and a large bank of lithium batteries.

On a narrowboat, it is hard to get enough solar, especially in winter, for this to be viable. With our larger Lithium packs, and in summer, you could cruise continuously and live comfortably, but come winter this would be incredibly difficult. I don’t want to put 2 many numbers in this document and make it too heavy, (that will come in later posts)

We are currently testing system for our widebeam boat, which should be fairly viable year round.

But for now, if the boat is used more than the odd week and weekend in summer, you’re going to need another charge method. We would love to see CRT, councils and Marina’s start to install charging stations, then we could easily negate the diesel completely.

Diesel Electric– A diesel generator used to charge batteries, and an electric motor connected to the propeller.

This is the same setup as above, but with 1 addition. A diesel generator. (LPG or other generators could be used but are not as efficient at this stage)

In the case of our boats, this generator has just one use. To replenish the battery bank, giving an extension on the range of the boat, further than what solar or shore power alone would allow.

Hybrid– Generally a motor connected to the same propeller shaft as the engine.

A popular system on narrowboats is a hybrid. We at Finesse are working on our own Hybrid system at the moment, It isn’t intended to replace either of the more pure electric options. The market for the hybrid we believe is retrofit, and for people who want a small amount of silent cruising. We feel it has too many drawbacks to be a serious option on a new boat. But we will cover this in a later post.

*September 2020