There is a boom in the number of owners and shipyards asking for an electric propulsion system for their boats. Guido Sodano, who imports Oceanvolt to Italy, explains why.
“Compared to previous seasons, the trend is definitely up” Guido Sodano, owner of Sodano, the Italian importer of Oceanvolt electric propulsion systems, confirms this. “More and more boatyards are offering electric propulsion. But that’s not all. What’s interesting is the variety of boats where this solution is requested: from catamarans to classic boats, from standard cruisers to custom-built yachts”.
These are no longer ‘pioneering’ installations, electric boats are a reality and, year after year, the costs of the systems are falling: “The technologies are improving, especially in terms of storage, i.e. batteries, where lithium has made great strides. They are increasingly light, compact and economical: autonomy is no longer a problem.
Does the installation of electric motors mainly concern new boats? “We mainly install Oceanvolt systems on boats under construction, but there is a good 20% – and growing – business from retrofits. For example, Oceanvolt recently fitted a 5kW shaft drive motor to the Sonia II, a 6-metre International Class 1908 that was found in a forest in Sweden, saved from destruction and restored by Cantieri Alto Adriatico Custom of Monfalcone.
“The latest ITA Catamarans 14.99, the third catamaran launched by the Italian yard, has a hybrid system with two 15kW saildrive engines. The new Vismara 41, under construction at Nabys, is a custom yacht with an ‘eco’ philosophy, with a cedar hull and extensive use of flax fibre. Oceanvolt is present with a 10kW saildrive.
Then we have the Baltic 68 Café Racer, with a 30kW electric motor that has the ability to hydro-generate through its propeller while sailing. A feature common to all Oceanvolt systems. Then, the Australian yard McConaghy launched a 57-foot Frers equipped with a twin saildrive. As for standard boats, there’s Elan, which offers an electric version on its E4 with a 10 kW saildrive (as well as on various other models) and Sweden’s Arcona, which has the option on its boats”.
And these are just a few examples. In fact, Oceanvolt offers all-inclusive packages (engine, battery pack, power management unit with 300 dedicated alarms, electronic connections, propeller, battery charger, etc.) for monohulls ranging from 8 to 18 metres and for multihulls up to 16 metres.
“This is how we work,” continues Sodano. “On the basis of the client’s requests (private individuals or shipyards), we develop a system specifically for the boat, using Oceanvolt software that draws up performance forecasts for the boat, calculating the power required, the range and the maximum speed that the hull can reach, even in bow-wind conditions of 15 and 30 knots. The software also simulates performance on the basis of the battery pack: 10, 14 and 20 kW/h. It is then up to the customer to decide which one to choose. It’s up to the customer to decide which one to choose.
Also very interesting are hybrid solutions, which include a DC generator (direct current) that is very efficient because it charges the batteries directly: these are particularly popular on catamarans. Or with an alternating current (AC) generator, the so-called ‘range extender'”.
As far as costs are concerned, “for a 12-meter cruiser, the entire propulsion system goes from 20 to 22 thousand euros”.
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