Introduction to Solar Electric Boats

The animation shows the main components for most electric boat installations: a charger, a battery bank, a speed controller and an electric motor.

The advantages of an electric powered boat are many. An electric boat is quiet, environmentally sound, it encourages conversation and provides a smooth relaxing environment. In most cases the slap of the water against the hull is the prevalent sound. The absence of other appreciable sound is surprising to most people. Sailors especially appreciate the quiet motion of the electric motor propelled boat. Electric boats are also less expensive to operate and maintain in many cases.

As gas and diesel prices continue to rise and there is a greater appreciation for green living, I see exciting times ahead for electric boating.

The rental and ride opportunities have increased dramatically as has the range of boats available on the market. The market choices were once confined to essentially an expensive launch or or small fishing boat with a trolling motor. The choices now include many lower cost options, a great choice of hull type and some very large boats as well. Several large sailing catamarans are now available with auxiliary electric drive including hybrid drives. Large catamarans are especially good regeneration candidates due to their higher speed potential. There has been a rapid rise in the number of solar assisted electric boats available as stock models and as one off boats (mostly in Europe and Australia). This site will introduce you to some of the many types of electric boats now available for purchase, rental and boat rides.

Behind all of this market activity has been a great deal of technological change. Larger permanent magnet brushless motors and their sophisticated controllers have entered the electric boat market and have already boosted e boat performance dramatically in terms of efficiency, simplicity (generally direct drive) and the ability to regenerate electicity (a decided advantage where an electric motor provides auxiliary power for a large sailboat). Some high tech battery types are getting close to the point of making economic sense. Nickle metal hydride batteries have already been used in some marine applications. The AGM (absorbed glass mat) type of lead acid battery is becomming very popular with electric boaters. Fully engineered hybrid systems are now available for small boats and this area is expected to expand. Solar power has proven itself as a charging source and range extender in many commercial and private boats.

Some of the most recent encouraging events include the following:

The Steyr Hybrid diesel engine with an integrated electric motor and control system seems to break ground in hybrid systems accomplishing a great deal in one package.These integrated features include: propeller generator, 10 hp electric drive, generator, electric engine booster,and backup starter for diesel. New Mounting systems and mounting systems with motor attached are now available for inboard electric powering from and

The Tamarack electric boat company in Canada makes the Loon, a solar electric pontoon boat. This is the first of it's kind I've seen from North America.

The Sydney solar sailor has been running as a comercial charter vessel for the past 5 years. They have recently upgraded the electric propulsion. system. Other solar sailer vessels and routes are planned including one in San Fransico in 2008.

The MW line of solar electric boats is quite extensive currently (Aug 2007), with their tour boats in use in many lakes and rivers in europe.

The sun 21, a 46 ft long solar electric powered catamaran, Made an atlantic crossing voyage which started in Basel Switzerland on Oct 16, 2006 and Arrived in New York City on May 5th,2007. This trip was made without consuming a drop of fuel,

Solomon has announce new hybrid enabling options. One allows the use of lower priced AC generators. A solar charge converter is also available to enable any number of solar panels to charge up to 144 volt battery banks.

Advanced Technology Watercraft in Australia is now selling the components and services need for a fully automated Hybrid boat configuration using various combinations of solar panels, a wind generator and a diesel generator. All components can be automated for hands off hybrid battery management.

Duffy has demonstrated an electric boat with a fuel cell using metal hydride to provide the hydrogen.

Elco offers a 19 ft Fantail launch with hybrid electric power through an installed AC generator. They now offer the components for sale.

Many pontoon boat dealers now offer electric boat options.

Please join me in exploring the exciting development of electric boats as electric boats become more prevalent and their capabilities dramatically increase.

Explore these pages often, where the latest electric boat developments and information can be discovered.

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Created and maintained by Jim Kerr
Last Updated: Aug. 20th, 2009