Torqeedo leaves the 2013 Miami boat show with a NMMA Innovation Award for its Deep Blue electric outboard, which made its North American debut at the event. Deep Blue is a huge leap for the German manufacturer, which has quietly (in every way) been gaining a following in the United States with a line of kicker-size electric propulsion motors up to 4kW (matching the thrust of a 9.9-hp gasoline outboard) that are attractive for use on restricted lakes and for light-duty auxiliary power. The new 60kW (80-hp) Deep Blue is aimed at the commercial market, but the firm is also working with several pleasure-boat builders. The company had the motor rigged on a flats boat and a Zodiac inflatable at Miami.
Deep Blue looks like a gas outboard, in that the motor is mounted on top and the prop drive is through a bevel gear in a lower unit, with 3:1 reduction gearing. Because it does not have to deal with exhaust turbulence, the propeller can be optimized for thrust production, taking advantage of hub-vortex vanes and a design with a hub cone that looks like it came off an atomic submarine. The motor also has power trim. The 400-volt system is powered by marinized lithium-ion batteries (each is waterproof-rated to IP67) manufactured by Johnson Controls and similar to those used in the auto industry. Each 13 kW battery measures 3 x 2 x 1 foot and weighs 328 pounds. The motor can function on two batteries, but Torqeedo spokesman Chris Carroll says four batteries will provide five to seven hours of working power. The system includes the control lever and a 5.7-inch touchscreen display with 14 different screens offering GPS-based information about range, speed over ground, and battery charge status. The nav system can save different destinations and provide range, distance, and arrival time information for each, with the heading to each shown on a built-in compass. The motor with controls will cost $17,500 according to Carroll, with each battery pack priced separately at $15,000.
“We remind the commercial user that when he buys the batteries it’s like buying ten years of fuel up front,” says Carroll. “The financial model works for boats that are used more than 150 days a year. There’s no fuel to store, no service costs, no gas motors to maintain or replace every three years. There are of course the environmental advantages, and the fact that the electric motor is silent.”
Because the electric motor makes full torque at all speeds, it’s ideal for pushing a very heavy boat, so it may have appeal to owners of dive boats, small construction barges, ferries and water taxis, and harbor patrol boats.
Right now Deep Blue seems much too expensive for private use unless the situation were perfect. But the same could said of electric automobiles a few years ago, and today owners of electric cars are becoming mainstream. Continued battery development will be the key to the future of electric propulsion.
For more information, contact Torqeedo.