There is a lot of talk these days about alternative power and the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Manufacturers are hard at work looking for viable options that can perform as well as or better than existing combustion engines. There are more hybrid cars on the road then ever before and “electric” seems to be one of the most viable options on the road to reducing dependence on gasoline. One company, Torqeedo, has succeeded in creating a motor that is comparable to similar gas-powered outboards and in fact can surpass them in performance and features. It has accomplished this with the all-new and highly innovative Deep Blue outboard motor system.
The 80 HP equivalent outboard is made up of a custom brushless electric motor designed for optimum efficiency. It is attached to a unique gearbox and the gears transfer the power to a specially designed propeller. The technology applied to the unique propeller design was actually gleaned from new efficient designs used on modern ships. It has proven to be a simple but very effective design that can allow for maximum thrust at maximum efficiency, an important feature when running on battery power.
Of course, for any electric motor to work there has to be a dependable power source and for these new electric outboards that means batteries. Research and developments in the auto industry’s use of battery power in hybrids and all electric engines has allowed for lithium technology to transfer over to the marine world. Torqeedo has partnered with the automotive expertise of Johnson Controls to provide a reliable and efficient power supply for its new electric outboard. The result is a marine grade lithium battery with an outstanding 9-year 80% capacity guarantee. The whole system is sealed and waterproofed for safety and durability and there are smart controls that monitor the battery levels and will tell you remaining range and power, based on current use. This way there is no guessing as to the optimum speed and range capabilities for the system. You will always know how far you can go and how much power you have left and can adjust accordingly.
All this new technology doesn’t come cheaply, however. Despite the high costs Torqeedo claims that if you spend more than $6,000 a year in fuel costs or run you vessel more than 150 days a year, then Deep Blue may be a viable option over the long term. The motor itself runs about $20,000. Batteries for this motor can set you back $32,998 for a 26 kWh system, $49,497 for a 39 kWh battery system and as much as $65,996 for a 52 kWh system. Because of this high cost, marketing by Torqeedo has been primarily focused on the commercial market and in areas such as Europe where green-only restricted waters are closing out gasoline engines.
As time goes by and green areas grow and the price of batteries continues to drop, options such as Deep Blue will start to make sense for others looking for a viable alternative to traditional motors. Just as the cost of electric and hybrid cars has dropped, so too will marine battery systems. Until then it is a great cutting-edge technology just out of the reach of most boaters, but it is a sign of good things to come.