Island Pilot’s 3-way hybrid cruiser - Soundings Online

Island Pilot’s 3-way hybrid cruiser

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Even though the price of fuel hasn’t reached truly stratospheric prices, the spike last summer jarred the recreational powerboat market and motivated engineers to think about alternative propulsion systems that make sense, both economically and environmentally.

Even though the price of fuel hasn’t reached truly stratospheric prices, the spike last summer jarred the recreational powerboat market and motivated engineers to think about alternative propulsion systems that make sense, both economically and environmentally.

Island Pilot of Miami, builder of the IP 395 twin-sterndrive fast trawler, is taking a bold step toward eco-friendly cruising. The company, which builds its boats at Uni Shine Marine in Zhuhai, China, has announced plans for a 40-foot twin-hulled cruiser with diesel-electric and solar power.

“Everybody talks about the problems of high gasoline costs and the effects of global warming, why not become part of the solution?” asks Island Pilot president Reuben Trane.

The new boat, dubbed the DSe Hybrid 12M, is a bona fide power catamaran with diesel-electric propulsion that was designed by Trane and naval architect George Petrie. The boat offers accommodations for two couples and amenities for long-range cruising. Trane predicts a speed of up to 7 mph using electric energy that’s provided either directly from solar panels, the batteries or a combination of both.

In diesel-electric mode, the DSe Hybrid will reach a cruising speed of approximately 17 mph, powered by Glacier Bay’s OSSA Powerlite (www.ossapowerlite.com) diesel-electric system, which features two 25-kW common-rail diesel generators and twin 240-volt DC electric motors.

Trane admits that linking solar energy to the drive train is an engineering feat that still is being worked out. “We have nailed down the design of the key elements, but some components are still being sourced out,” he says.

Trane says preliminary calculations put fuel consumption, with solar boost, at approximately 1 gallon per 5 nautical miles at around 17 mph. Under ideal conditions, the DSe Hybrid should run up to 2 hours under battery power alone or virtually all day during sunlight hours without using any diesel fuel at all.

The hybrid operation is seamless, according to Island Pilot. The diesel-electric power takes over from the solar-battery power when higher speeds are desired or when sunlight conditions aren’t ideal. Additional benefits, the company says, include lower noise, improved weight distribution and lower maintenance costs.

Beyond the use of renewable energy for propulsion, the DSe Hybrid also will derive operating efficiency from its hydrodynamic characteristics. “The DSe Hybrid’s hulls have a streamlined shape with fine bow and stern sections,” says Petrie. Other features include a bulbous bow to reduce resistance and a stern shape that optimizes prop efficiency so only 8 hp would be required to drive the boat at 7 mph. And those 8 horses could come from two 3 kW solar cell arrays with 14 membranes, provided the sun is playing along.

To reach 17 mph, the DSe Hybrid requires only 60 hp, which is produced by the twin 25 kW diesel generators and the two electric motors. Petrie calculates that at 17 mph — cruising speed is equal to top speed with electric motors — the maximum fuel burn is less than 4 gallons per hour. With some help from the solar panels and calm conditions, the Island Pilot DSe Hybrid 12M could make the round trip from Palm Beach, Fla., to Bimini on less than 25 gallons of diesel, according to the company. At the time of this writing, Trane was preparing the model tank-tests in China to optimize the boat’s lean and slippery hulls.

The interior is designed to be lush and comfortable, with a futuristic touch. Trane envisages a “Star Trek atmosphere” in the pilothouse, with a control console that includes Raymarine’s E120 multidisplay electronics package, the OSSA touch-screen control panel for the diesel-electric system, and a joystick for steering. All of this pulls out from the console to pivot to either of the two helm chairs, which spin to face the curved seating aft. Abaft the pilothouse, a tender is stored on a pair of davits, and the swim platform is accessed by two transom stairways.

The rest of the interior is designed around two cruising couples or a family. Each of the hulls has a queen-berth stateroom aft, with private head and separate shower. The deckhouse saloon and galley area measures 12 by 13.5 feet, thanks to the boat’s 17-foot beam, and provides a panoramic view of the surroundings. The galley is placed in the aft portion of the deckhouse, to starboard, and includes an efficient refrigerator/freezer that uses just 33 watts. Seating, a teak dining table and a satellite TV system with 26-inch flat-screen television are standard.

For living aboard and long-term cruising, the boat has plenty of storage space, air conditioning, and a built-in washer/dryer. Lighting will utilize LEDs for efficiency.

To reduce the risk of damage in transit, as well as the cost of shipping, the DSe Hybrid will be shipped in two containers, with final assembly of the hulls and superstructure completed on location. Island Pilot hopes to introduce the DSe Hybrid 12M at the Miami Boat show in 2008, and lists an introductory base price of $430,000.

For more information, contact the company at (888) 443-2965 or visit www.dsehybrid.com .