Robert Allan (Naval Architecture Firm) Unveils New All-Electric Pilot Boat Design

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Jointly written by James Ayre and Zachary Shahan

The British Columbia–based naval architecture firm Robert Allan has unveiled a new all-electric pilot boat design dubbed the RAlly 1600-E.

The new all-electric aluminum pilot boat design is based around the idea of meeting applications where runs are under 5 nautical miles in distance or so. This new design builds on an earlier steel version of the design, and features a fully electric twin screw drivetrain and a top speed of 20 knots. Accompanying the drivetrain are twin auxiliary generators that could be used if need be.

Green Car Congress provides more:

“In this mixed-use scenario with a 5 NM run, the RAlly 1600-E can complete a full operation totally on batteries with 30% of nominal battery capacity to spare. The aluminum boat has the same total weight, power, and speed as the steel prototype. The weight saved in eliminating the diesel engines and their support systems, removing the diesel fuel, and changing to an aluminum hull provides the weight budget for the new electric drive and batteries.

“The propulsion motors are 500 kW 2,800 rpm permanent magnet 750 volt AC electric motors controlled by frequency convertors providing a full range of speed. The motors drive through standard ZF or Twin Disc 3:1 reverse/reduction gears to conventional shafting and 840 mm propellers. … The battery system consists of 70 modules of Spear SMAR-11N-224 units providing a capacity of 815 kWh. As required by Class they are arranged in a separate compartment which is located in the middle of the boat between the accommodations and the machinery space.”

On that note, it should as be stated that the batteries are also liquid cooled and that the space in question is well ventilated — both of which should provide some leeway against potential (theoretical) battery problems.

As one would guess, this pilot boat design is a fair bit quieter in use than comparable diesel-powered pilot boats are — something of interest to those in certain use cases.

We sent questions to Robert Allan regarding potential pricing, potential manufacturing location, and when such a boat might come to market.

The Nascent But Exciting & Varied Electric Boat Scene

Electric boats are clearly a bit behind the electric car or electric bus market, but we’ve published about a dozen or more products or concepts over the years.

Denmark recently pushed a pilot project and plans to roll out hybrid electric ferries for its many islands, with the end goal being a 100% electric fleet of ferries to get to 36 small, populated islands. Nearby, Wärtsilä won a contract in Sweden to supply a couple of electric tugboats. It also has a version of the hybrid tugboat specifically adapted for the Chinese market.

Image courtesy Wärtsilä

China actually launched its first all-electric cargo ship at the end of last year. Some details on that trendsetter: “the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery that stores enough electrical energy to transport 2200 tons of cargo a distance of 50 miles on a single charge at a top speed of about 8 miles per hour. Time to recharge the battery is given as 2 hours, which is approximately the time needed to unload the ship at its destination.” Unfortunately, the electric cargo ship is … for hauling coal.

Then there’s the short-range, all-electric coastal container ship known as the Yara Birkeland. The expectation is that it will not only be electric but also autonomous by 2020. It is being developed developed by the Norwegian firms Yara and Kongsberg Gruppen.

Not to leave speed boats off the table, a company called Torqeedo is working on those. It is using BMW i3 batteries (which use Samsung SDI battery cells) for high performance, high density, high durability, and superb battery management. The question is, which would win in a 100 meter race — an electric boat using Torqeedo’s Deep Blue drive system or a BMW i3?

There are also, of course, electric speedboat conversions like this one and this one. And requests for Tesla to make electric boats (because, you know, the company doesn’t have enough on its plate).

For a more peaceful, totally clean ride, there’s the solar-powered electric yacht Soel Yacht SoelCat 12. It’s a beauty too. Or are we just swayed by the mesmerizing turquoise waters in the pics below?

Overall, it was estimated in early 2017 or late 2016 that the electric boat market could reach $20 billion by 2027. Who will the big winners be? How will the market split out? We’ll try to track the stories and find out.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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