All Charged Up

Devlin Boats debuts its first pure solar-electric design
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Sam Devlin is bullish on electric boats. His company, Devlin Designing Boat Builders, debuted its first pure solar-electric boat, the Solar Sal 27, at the Seattle Boat Show in January.

Sustainable Energy Systems (SES) of Troy, New York, contracted Devlin, who is based in Olympia, Washington, to design and build the 29-foot-long Solar Sal 27, which will sell for $275,000. SES focuses on solar-powered vessels for commercial and recreational use.

The Solar Sal 27 can accommodate eight guests, has two berths in a forward stateroom and comes with Dry Flush’s Laveo system, which does not require a holding tank. The boat is designed for lakes and other protected waters, and also serves as a prototype; Devlin uses a stitch-and-glue construction method, which allows him to adapt the design to a customer’s needs. “We’re going to let the market tell us what it needs and where it wants to go,” Devlin says. He is also designing an all-electric cruiser for SES in the 36- to 46-foot range.

The Solar Sal 27 operates off the energy produced by 10 roof-mounted solar panels. The flexible panels generate 1.44 kWh and were selected because they could follow the roof crown for a more elegant design.

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The boat’s lithium batteries and an integrated 4-kW Torqeedo pod drive provide running times from two hours at full speed to 10 hours at a 4-knot cruise. Running times will be longer on sunny days, as the solar panels replenish the batteries. The two Victron LiFePO4 batteries also can be charged through shorepower, and Devlin is looking at EFOY methanol fuel cells as a possible hybrid solution in the future. “It will depend on what owners want,” he says. 

Devlin expects the marine industry to follow the auto industry when it comes to pure electric propulsion. “I’m excited about this electric stuff,” he says. “As people developed confidence in hybrid car systems, they became more comfortable with the step to full electric. I think we’re going to see that in boats, too. It’s going to happen very quickly.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue.