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Plugboats: Electric takes centre stage at marine trade show

METSOTTI

Dec 7, 2023

By Jeff Butler

METSTRADE is ‘the world’s largest trade exhibition of marine equipment, materials and systems’. Every November for the past 35 years, tens of thousands of buyers and sellers from around the world come to explore 8 halls in the huge RAI Exhibition Centre in Amsterdam and discover all the latest in the world of recreational boating.

At this year’s show it would have been difficult not to notice that it was a breakout year for electric boats and motors.

There were more than 75 electric exhibitors in all (more than double last year), a Next Generation Propulsion Zone where 20 of the latest technologies were on feature display, and the two largest electric outboard manufacturers – Torqeedo and ePropulsion – both took the occasion of the show to make significant announcements of new motors.

The most impressive thing was the  important DAME Awards, which have been presented at METS for the past 32 years. Judges from all over the world and from a variety of disciplines come together to honour the best products in eight categories that “recognize and emphasize the importance of design for all marine products, from function to aesthetics and from packaging to the end product.”

One of those eight categories is ‘Propulsion and Dynamics’, and for the first time in the history of the awards, every single nominee – eight in all – were electric propulsion solutions. Torqeedo and ePropulsion were there, but also some startups and relative newcomers with truly innovative designs and breakthrough technology.

To put the icing on the electric motor cake, the ServoProp 25 from Finnish manufacturer Oceanvolt not only took the award for propulsion, but was also the overall DAME winner, picked ‘best of show’ from all categories.

The jury said “This excellently conceived and engineered 25kW electric saildrive tangibly moves the goalposts for 45-70ft sailboats in terms of providing a reliable and extremely quiet option for electrification. Oceanvolt’s use of its controllable pitch propeller technology ensures maximum efficiency for propulsion and hydrogeneration, with the system able to return up 5kW of power when the yacht is sailing at 10 knots. Thought has been given to minimizing installation and maintenance time and the ServoProp 25 operates from a 48V battery pack, keeping it within the safe voltage threshold. An exemplar product that pushes the electrification agenda toward more far-reaching horizons.”

A brief look at the other nominees in the propulsion category:

ePropulsion has built their name in small outboards – less than 6 kiloWatts/9 horsepower – but launched three higher power models at METSTRADE, the X12, X20, X40, with the X20 a DAME nominee. The numbers in the models (12, 20 40) denote the kiloWatts of power and roughly correspond to 18, 28 and 55 Hp combustion motors.

Torqeedo already has a number of higher power electric outboards and went a different route by introducing a modular system for their small outboards that makes it easier to get more range by swapping batteries and adds new digital and wireless features.

Another large manufacturer, Garmin, was nominated for its new higher power Kraken Trolling Motor. Then there were the startups  and younger companies.

Germany’s Molabo launched an electric outboard motor that delivers 50 kiloWatts of power (≈65-70HP) using only 48 watts of power. Without getting into the technical details, that is a big breakthrough in volt to power ratio and is also important because installers and marine service technicians do not need any extra safety training or equipment to work with 48 volt systems.

The Fin5, from France, is a 5 kW / 9 HP electric outboard that uses an entirely different type of propulsion, replacing the propeller with an undulating membrane. It was inspired by the way fish move through water (hence Fin in the name) and was developed by adapting and enlarging a pump used in cardiovascular treatment that mimics the action of a patient’s real heart.

Also from France comes the TEMO, a small electric outboard for dinghies and small sailing boats that houses the battery, motor and controls within a wedge shaped shaft that acts like a rudder.

Finally, from New Zealand there was the ZeroJet Electric Jet Propulsion System (ZJ Gen2). It’s a plug & play electric jet that can be incorporated into small RIBS and other boats that want the fast acceleration, manoeuvrability and low profile of a jet but don’t want to use fossil fuels.

That is only the companies that were nominated in the awards. There were dozens of other established and new electric boat motor companies at METS as well as high speed marina marina charging systems, solid state batteries, and a foiling simulator that put visitors in the pilot’s seat of the hydrogen fuel cell chase boat the Emirates Team New Zealand is using in next year’s America’s Cup.

For next year’s METS, it is almost a given that some of the new exhibitors from this year will be award nominees for 2024 and other innovators will keep on coming as the world of electric boating keeps growing.

Jeff Butler is based in Toronto and is the Editor/Publisher of plugboats.com, the international website covering everything electric boats and boating. He is also President of the Electric Boat Association of Canada and is busy preparing to bring electric motor boat racing and exhibitions to Toronto Harbour in 2023 for the first Toronto Solar Boat Races.

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