The momentum behind electric-powered transportation continues to build as new technology transforms what was once eccentric into mainstream. If Harley-Davidson is selling a battery-powered motorcycle, can practical electric power for pleasure boats be far over the horizon?
One builder pushing electrification forward is Greenline Yachts of Slovenia, which since 2008 has been installing inboard hybrid diesel/electric systems in its Greenline Yachts from 33 to 65 feet. Recently, Greenline took electric yachting in a different direction with the introduction of the 36-foot, 5-inch NEO model, a dayboat available with twin Torqeedo Deep Blue 50R electric outboards paired with BMW i3 battery cells.
The NEO is also available with twin 150- to 300-hp Mercury outboards, which offer a comparison between contemporary ICE (internal combustion engine) and electric outboard power. Note that we’re making these comparisons with data supplied by Greenline; we haven’t run the boat yet.
The Deep Blue 50R is the most powerful outboard from Torqeedo, equivalent to an 80-hp ICE outboard. The 40-kWh BMW i3 battery is new for 2019 and utilizes the
latest automotive-grade lithium-ion technology. The battery measures 5 feet, 5 inches by 3 feet, 4 inches by 7 inches and weighs 612 pounds, and can be charged from 0 to 80 percent capacity in 90 minutes with 50-amp shore power. The system requires very little maintenance and in the long run can reduce operation costs for some customers. But the initial price is steep: $23,999 for the outboard plus $31,999 for the i3 battery.
By one measure, an electric outboard is ideal for marine propulsion because it produces 100 percent of its rated torque instantly when the “throttle” is applied, so it can be equipped with a propeller offering much more blade area than found on an ICE engine, which must build power as its rpm increases. This makes electric power especially adept at efficiently pushing very heavy boats at low speeds. But even with advances in battery technology, range and power remain the limiting factor of electric outboard propulsion. With electric power, the 10,600-pound NEO has a reported top speed of 12.6 mph and a range of 60 miles at 8 mph. By comparison, we estimate the NEO will cruise at about 35 mph with twin Mercury Verado 300-hp outboards, for perhaps 11 hours with 184 gallons of fuel capacity.
The NEO hull, created by J&J Design Studio, is shaped for
efficiency at semi-displacement speeds, according to the builder. The NEO has a number of interesting design points, too, foremost the optional bathing platform that surrounds the outboards and moves vertically on an electro-hydraulic mechanism.
The NEO is offered in three deck layouts: Open, Hardtop and Coupe. The Hardtop and Coupe are equipped with 1.2-kW solar panels to recharge 7.2-kWh AGM service batteries for AC power to all appliances and outlets. According to Greenline the solar charger can support typical appliance use for two days in cloudy weather, and keep the battery fully charged in sunny weather, even with AC active. The service batteries for the Open model are recharged with shorepower.
Will you be happy cruising this dayboat at 8 or 10 mph? You’ll slip silently out of the marina and motor along accompanied only by the sound of the wind and waves. On protected waters this could be perfectly pleasant if you can suppress your horsepower gene, and don’t mind the upcharge for the Torqeedo system. Base price for the Hardtop with 150-hp Mercury outboards is $242,498; with Deep Blue power it’s $368,647.
This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue.