THE MEDIA VOICE OF THE GLOBAL MARINA INDUSTRY

Electric propulsion – a solution to pollution?

by Oscar Siches
Virgil, in The Aeneid (Virgil, Aeneid, II, 49), proclaimed “Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks bearing gifts” when recounting the Trojan War and the Greeks’ deception with the wooden horse. This cautionary tale is still relevant, warning us about seemingly harmless things or actions that could have hidden, unexpected consequences. Today, 2,000 years later, I’m going to flag up Virgil again and say “beware of electric propulsion and its promise to be a universal solution to pollution.”

Ecolution solutions.

Ecolution solutions.

Electric propulsion is an old concept. Moritz van Jacobi, a German engineer, built the first electric boat in St Petersburg, Russia in 1839. However, its popularity dwindled around 1920 in favour of fossil-fuelled engines, which were lighter in weight (virtually no batteries) and easier to transport and store. All good – until we realised a few years ago that we’d neglected the environment. Welcome back electrics…
Electric propulsion is undoubtedly a solution to pollution caused by emissions, but the marketing of this apparent miracle-solution fails to mention potential issues that could make the practical use of electric boats less rewarding than promised.
Power sources
The most advanced types of electric recreational boats currently rely on two power sources: fuel cells and batteries. While fuel cells are associated with hydrogen, they can also work with ethanol, diesel oil, gasoline or gas, with varying emissions and fuel efficiency/power output.
Ecolution solutions 300 bar hydrogen containers (left).

Ecolution solutions 300 bar hydrogen containers (left).

When used with hydrogen, fuel cells do not generate emissions. However, hydrogen is not easy to transport as it must be pressurised and cooled to -253°C or pressurised at room temperature to 350 or 700 bar to manage the volumes. To put this into perspective, the air in a diving cylinder is compressed to 220 bar (though some can handle 300 bar).
Fuel cells are stackable, and power can be increased by adding more cells. The cells themselves are relatively small, with a 30kW (40hp) cell the size of a standard laser printer. The good news? This year, Neo Orbis will be launched in Amsterdam, and it will be the first boat in the world using hydrogen from a powder source (sodium borohydride). This is a big step forward.
In June 2022, I was aboard a 20m (66ft) sailboat in Sneek, the Netherlands, that had two 30kW cells and two 20-litre hydrogen tanks each at 350 bar. With 40 litres of hydrogen, the boat could travel 100 miles at eight knots, outperforming a conventional engine four to one. However, the lack of hydrogen refuelling stations is a major obstacle to widespread adoption, and hydrogen propulsion is currently three times more expensive than diesel.
Battery power

The most common types of batteries are lead-acid (PA) and lithium-ion (IL). Both types are heavy, with lead-acid batteries being the heaviest. Lead-acid batteries are also bigger and must be installed in a vertical position because of their vents or plugs. By contrast, sealed lithium-ion batteries can be installed in any position. However, there is a slight risk of explosion with sealed batteries, although this is a rare occurrence with lead-acid batteries.
One of the first things that users may notice is that the real autonomy of the batteries is often less than advertised. As for cars, calculations for battery life are made under ideal weather conditions and at an ideal battery temperature. However, when batteries become hot, they lose their ability to deliver energy. If the boat is heavily or unevenly loaded, it will demand more power from the engine, which will in turn require more power from the batteries. Therefore, every sailor must become familiar with the new propulsion system and use it with reasonable caution.
The age of a battery is based on its number of charge cycles, similar to how aeroplanes are aged by number of take-offs and landings. While batteries are not eternal, current batteries have a lifespan of between 3,500 and 5,000 charging cycles, which for weekend and vacation purposes equates to approximately 170 cycles per year. This provides a theoretical lifespan of between 20 and 35 years but batteries deteriorate throughout their lifespan, and the average lifespan of a boat battery is only five to seven years.
Electric motor maintenance: Ecoboats, Australia.

Electric motor maintenance: Ecoboats, Australia.

As yet, we do not have regulations governing the recycling of the enormous number of boat batteries that we will have by about 2040. And batteries are, and will be, very expensive. Marinas must adopt the necessary standards as it will be their responsibility to dispose of old batteries legally.
Charging up
Ports will also have to decide on the type and number of pedestals they install. One per boat? Not very efficient, unless one is installed for every electric vessel that spends more than six months per year in port. Slow or fast charging? In my opinion, fast charging will be necessary for port service vessels or fast passenger boats.
Batteries can be charged in three ways: via the traditional pedestal (charger on the boat, slow charging); slow charge (the charger is in the pedestal and it sends direct current (DC) to the batteries as with electric cars); and fast charging (the same method but with high amperage – a costly medium to high power electrical installation).
When electric vessels begin to proliferate, ports must install battery charging pedestals to meet the needs of the vessels that require them. Permanent/long term berth holder vessels will merit the installation of their own pedestals and transients will need to be assigned to berths that have charging ability. Why? Because few ports will be able to afford a complete electrical installation while maintaining traditional pedestals for boats with normal engines.
Training and education
TopDutch eco vessel.

TopDutch eco vessel.

The learning and accustoming period should be spent with a hybrid system: in addition to batteries and a charging system, a generator that allows a return to port at a reduced speed. This system can be purchased or rented by the boat builder, marina or club. Ports should employ more members of staff and boost their towing capabilities as the number of electric boats that run out of batteries before returning to port will likely be high. Maritime Rescue cannot be expected to rescue all the electric propulsion ‘apprentices’.
Having listed some of the situations that we will encounter when adopting this technology, we still need to plan the training of port personnel. They must be trained to control and fight lithium battery fires, which require special equipment and protocols. Grouping electric boats in a specific area where there are more fire-fighting resources for lithium batteries will enhance security, as will ensuring the free passage of fire trucks to that same area.
Electric propulsion is efficient, safe, and in most cases, cheaper than hydrocarbons. It is here to stay, it will be regulated, and it will evolve rapidly in the coming years. However, we still have a long way to go to be ready to receive these vessels of the future in our ports. Knowing how to choose the system and manage well-planned and sufficient logistics is paramount. Then we can purchase an electric boat and christen it “Volta”.

READ MORE

Waterfront innovations in Canada

New agent for Capria

Breaking ground on the future

Port Vell launches bunkering service

Pacsoft launches MarinaPay

Extra berths at The Boat Works

Storm protection in Quincy Bay

Dura adds smaller size mesh

Smart Marinas guide and 2022 industry statistics

Man Overboard alarm readies for export

Eco pedestals promoted for export

Safe storage for lithium batteries

Freedom adds two Sydney clubs

Rental service boost in South Florida

New transporter is fit for a Princess

Keeping it in the family

Metstrade remains essential anchor point

Adapting marinas to alternative fuel propulsion systems

EV charging in the marina industry

Whitepaper illuminates key role of bidirectional charging

Mobile fuel station pioneers sustainability and efficiency

Resilient marina renovations lead to coral relocation

New research outlines pathways to decarbonisation

A resilient rebirth at Zeke's Landing

Renovations, partnership and acquisitions

Partnership boosts nautical tourism

Replacement docks double superyacht capacity

Premier buys leading drystack

Tourist driven marina breaks ground

Waikawa extension opens

Ultra luxury on The Spit

Launching Norlana superyacht hub

Popular boat lifts form part of renovation project

New forklift boosts operator confidence

Digital payment solution for visitor moorings

Stacking up on Okanagan Lake

Smart software drives success in Mooloolaba

Using bacteria to eliminate hydrocarbon residues

Sustainable sanitation for America’s Cup bases

MDL continues multi million pound roll ut

D-Marin makes €1.7 million investment

Voting in the best for 2023

Regeneration continues at Isle of Wight harbour

Expansion plans in a buoyant market

Customers, culture, comms and carbon

Ligurian icons make a comeback

Welcoming megayachts to Istanbul

Integra buys Aventura marina

Med marina networks partner up

Renewed Dover dock nears completion

Merger creates 'biggest' South Florida marina

Sindalah yacht repair centre, first of many for Neom

New Calero group marina, and more

IBEX one of best to date

Plans firmed up for Habacoa

M3 to boost Amaala to La Belle Classe

IWMC 2025 heads to Venice

AMI keynote announced

Redeveloping a prime lakeside marina

Charging options on both sides of the Channel

Sanitary building kick starts floating building range

Hydrogen power

Floating patio becomes new marina hub

Boosting sustainability with the WRF

New lifts in facility upgrade

Interest builds for electric hoists

Majoring on the minority

Flying the Blue Flag

Silver EcoVadis for Premier

Protecting a sensitive ecosystem

Tangible benefits for the local area

Karpaz Gate Marina: A home away from home

Convenience is not a European value

Industry lobbies government on cyclone cover crisis

Upgrades at Port of Lisbon

Port 32 expands partnership with Gulfstream

North Island marina expands

Monument buys Florida marine centre

Marine Centre plans for James Watt

JYC Marina soft opens for Saudi Grand Prix

Wider decking panel– ideal for finger piers

GCMarine partners with Harbour Assist

Elevator Lift is reconfigured

Cleaning water with Advanced Oxidation

Trouble free trolley goes international

Waiting pontoon for high season

More Freedom in Australia

First in Barcelona, first in Redwood City

D Marin wins iF Design award

Futuristic pod delivered to the Pearl

New production line, new designs and noteworthy deliveries

New owners to invest in Dartside Quay

Multi use trailer for Canadian tourism service

Handle with care: a pad for all hull shapes

One year operation of electric boat hoists

Setting new delivery records for 2023

Variable width option for mobile boat hoists

IBEX 2023: focus on sustainability

In need of new marinas and new money

Superyacht marina for Dubai Islands

Swift progress on Blue Water Cay

Bermuda dock opens for superyachts

New managers for GCCM

IGY to operate NEOM's first groundbreaking marina

Mega focus in Italian marinas

Marina Bahia Golfito: the new Costa Rica destination

Rivergate up for sale

Full service in Fort Lauderdale

Go Outdoors platform launch

Upgrading key infrastructure

Marina group in administration

Operator sought for Co Down marina

How sustainable is your marina?

Geoff Phillips

UK marina group signs four year service contract

Valterri Vauramo

Joint connector enhances breakwater performance

Flovac wins second Mallorca contract

Setting a new standard in marine electrical safety

Smarter management, happier customers

Enhancing customer service across a multinational portfolio

Moss Marina: surviving the storm

Developing the Eagle Float

Wet versus dry in the western Med

First phase drystack opens in Charleston

Forklift design for growing centre console market

Pioneering drystack buys larger forklift

Industry views: Drystack storage

Promoting a customer focused culture

Ismailia contract awarded

Trophy asset for east coast portfolio

Marina completes waterfront regeneration

Investment plans for Pylos

Operator chosen for Elounda

New marina at town gateway

Guidelines for sustainable infrastructure

Evolving design over the decades

New trends drive marina reshape

Electric chargers for Italian marinas

D Marin expands digital solutions

Next generation buoy

Ultranav invests in LifeLadder

New hoist brings new technology

Pontoons for Ocean Race

Electric propulsion: a solution to pollution

Collection and protection for small islands

AMI Expo: a record breaker

Slovenian marinas join forces to boost potential

Resilience, long term vision and personal approach

Support for local businesses

Becoming a master at planning marinas

A nautical tourism centre for Piombino

Ismailia Yacht Marina: a key player in the new era of the Suez Canal

Rebuild underway at Club marina

Upgrade approved for Jones Bay

Port 32 buys Lighthouse Point

Suntex adds NJ and AZ marinas

Marina group expands to Spain

Port Vell as Cup superyacht marina

Berths still in high demand

Community space with maritime focus

Livart builds state of art factory

Dock company changes hands

New catalogue highlights

A 3D map of your marina

All change at ICOMIA

ICOMIA stats for 2021

Stellar joins Molo

Developing a fast charge network

The move to electric: e handling and e boating

Building a sustainable marina

Buzzing on full power

Innovation on the dockside

E dock supports e boat challenges

World Cup boosts pedestal contracts

Power for bigger berths in Dubrovnik

Opening the APS Seychelles agency

Building post pandemic momentum

Jesolo Marina plays major part in coastal plans

Reimagining Noss on Dart

Regeneration planning for Des Moines

Suntex buys Green Cove

New docks at Blue Haven

First NEOM island announced

Plan ahead for Marinas24

Novalja opens second phase

Melbourne City completes large berth upgrade

Inaugural PIANC America

Calypso Cove project agreed

Funding boost for Ocean Reef

MarineMax buys marina build specialist

Pod design to regenerate seagrass

First electric boat supercharger in Portugal

20 years for ICMS

Community docks for St Johns River

D-Marin invests in Sense4Boat

Autonomous gardening – anywhere under the sun

Australian marina sets new benchmark in waterfront living

Electric and traditional – hoist designs for all

Cat trailer range expanded

Ontario operator buys multi use trailer

Green o'clock at Metstrade

40 years of yard deliveries

One of the world's first electric marine hoists is installed in Spain

Twenty years of talented teamwork

Kemah Boardwalk: Gateway to Galveston Bay

Marinas and takeovers: Enough room for boating?

True spice in the Spice Island

Top US boat dealer launches first in state drystack

Captains and crew vote Coral Sea Marina 'best in world'

First superyacht repair and refit centre in UAE

Abu Dhabi: a new winter oasis

Gibraltar superyacht berths near completion

Superyachts welcome at Palm Beach marina

The big boat picture in southern Italy

Seclusion and luxury in the Bahamas

Jersey marina invests in rebuild

New superyacht haven in Greek isles

Resort opens in favoured tourist spot

Hurricane Ian devastates Fort Myers marinas

NZMOA 2022 Awards

Big Challenges, Big Decisions

Suntex expands into California market

Ocean Reef breakwaters complete

Almarin buys Aister

Historic club installs movable rowing pontoon

Partnership boosts green awareness

Fast charge expansion to US and Sweden

Customised forklift for Saxon Wharf

New decking prompts rethink

Silver and gold for D Marin

Third gen business buys third MT

MARINAS22: inspiring – and successful

Adelaide Pointe: a new development model

Repairs bring new energy to Dinner Key Marina

Buying and managing a first Italian marina

South Island gem for boating community

Construction starts at Dana Point Harbor

Second contract for 2024 Olympics

First phase completes at Windermere

Golden centrepiece at Beach Marine

Interest builds for megayacht marina

Common nautical rules sought

MarineMax to buy IGY Marinas

Bristol town upgrades harbour

Med market hit by lack of uniform fee policy

The good, the fair and the dangerous

The future of government marina leases and concessions

Boosting berths in Roskilde

Vacuum sewage system for new Spanish marina

Canadian club buys stacker crane

European boost for electric charging

Phase one portal release

Sign up surge for marina platform

Maximising occupancy: the smart way

Mia and Mateo and the smart marina

Delivering a digital future for marina management

One system for your whole business

Revolutionising time at the fuel dock

Kempinski to manage one of a kind hotel

A shared vision for the future on water

Building the first sustainable floating city

Flexible marina investment for maximum returns

New life for neglected peninsula

APCC wins Jubail contract

Resource consent for Te Rahui Herenga Waka

Spit plan contract

Berth boost at BYC

More cats welcome in Kemah

Planning for Enviro Officer course

Marina mooted in the east

Revised costing for St George's

JDC progresses mega project

Health of Industry report

MYP becomes MYTR at IBEX

Free flow club design links land to sea

Ambitious plans for a 21st century network

Azimut Benetti marinas

New all tide marina to enhance leisure mooring

Balancing land use, economics and destination appeal

When the seas rise

Sponsored feature: Semi automation boosts drystack

Phase two pier in place

Superyacht marina opts for vacuum sewerage

Storm proven attenuator protects Sunset Bay

Custom forklift for Cape Cod yard

Added value software features for ever changing industry

Developing a new green standard for Italian marinas

New yachting brand officially launched in Monaco

Coral Sea Marina Resort marks Clean Up Australia Day

Closing the loop on waste

Sustainable solutions support yard services

Composite piling for eco sense and long life

Future proofing St Michaels Marina

Trio to develop resort on Al Marjan Island

Semi automation boosts drystack profits

Final phase at Corpach

Upgrade complete at Albert Pier

Marinas to compete in Smart and Sustainable Rendezvous 2022

Abu Dhabi breaks ground on new marinas

Resort plans in Wallonia

Pelican Waters breaks ground on Queensland marina

New Cyprus Marina

Positive signs for Metstrade 2022

LA Waterfront. Setting the stage for new development

New yard in Australia

Marina group marks 35 years