Thursday, October 15, 2015

How I build my electric outboard motor

This blog post is an informational addition to the video I made about my electric outboard motor. If you haven't watch it yet, do so now(here on YouTube) and continue this after that :)
But first I have to make sure that you know what is my background in electricity and outboards. Year ago when I bought my boat I had no clue on electricity. I knew about plus and minus, but nothing about how voltage, amps etc. All I know and what I'm gonna talk about here is from googling stuff and trial/error experiments. Same goes with outboard motors. First time I opened a cover from a motor was when I had bought the my first "shell" for my project. So I had to improvise and figure out a lot of things. So take everything below this with little grain of salt and please feel free to comment and correct if there's a need for it. Thanks, now let's get started!
There are three main components when building an electric outboard motor: old outboard body, electric motor and controller. There are numerous options for each and even greater number of combinations. I did a lot of research on the internet before I chose the motor and the controller. I found some connections to these Kelly controllers from people who had build similar motors.
So I ended up with buying PM48301,300A,48V controller and MARS 0909 BRUSH-TYPE PM DC motor. I also bought some cables and a 0-5V throttle pot from ebay. The outboards that I converted were Evinrude 6hp and Terhi Valmet 15hp.
Because the motor top rpm is around 2100 in 24V the smaller propeller on Evinrude wasnt giving enough challenge for the motor(using only 40 amps) and going only 3,5kn I decided to go for a bigger body and the 15hp Terhi got me to 4kn and using about 60 amps. The motor got to the max rpm easily in 24 volts so I got the idea of doubling the voltage to 48V and doubling the rpm to 4200. This mode made a lot more resistant for the motor, so it ended up using more than 120 amps and i had to adjust the max amps from the controller down to 100 because the motor is rated only for 95 amps continuously. This double voltage mode I named Mörkömoodi(loose Finnish translation of beastmode :) and to be used only when I HAVE to get somewhere against some heavy resistance.
Heres some basic graph about the amps vs speed:
As you can see the consumption of electricity grows pretty fast as you get past 4 knots, so I my plan is to use 3 kn whenever I'm not in hurry and need to get far.
My battery bank is now 500ah in 24V and should give me a decent range. If not, then I buy more :)
I first thought that I could make the motor easely to also regenerate while sailing, but after many attempts I never got the controller to produce any amps. I tried many settings and turned the motor with a drill, no amps. But I know that the propeller starts turning when I hit around 5 knots. I'll get back to the regeneration after the winter...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Buiding confidence

My two strong heroes: Charles and Andrew

First connection tests with the controller. Notice the snacks ;)
My boat is not the same that it was 6 weeks ago, when I sailed it down to Helsinki. First I started experimenting with the idea of an electric motor inside of a traditional combustion outboard motor. I first bought a 1966 6hp Evinrude. The motor didn't quite fit inside of the hood, but otherwise it worked great. Only downside was the small size and pitch of the propeller. I know that my electric motor's max amp power is 100A, but at max voltage(24V) it was only using 40A to get the max speed(3,5kt). There was still 60% of torque left. So the next week I bought another "shell": 70's 15hp Terhi(Valmet) Finnish made outboard. This one had already bigger and steeper prob and the possibility to add even bigger. I had some difficulties with adjusting the shaft coupling, but got it working. Now I could also fit the motor inside without modifying the hood. This bigger outboard added some speed and power to my boat, but the main problem with converting outboards to electric ones was still there: revolutions per minute. Basic outboard engines run around 4000-6000rpm(that's what I've heard, cos the first time I opened an outboard was the first one I converted 4 weeks ago ;) and my electric motor runs only around 2000rpm. It has the torque, but not the speed. The only way to rev it up was to double the voltage. So I made a test by putting two of my three battery pairs to series and make 48V for the motor. This doubles the rpm to 4000+ and gives the max power of around 4kW. With this configuration I got the speed up to 5 knots, but the cost of consuming more than twice the amps than going 4 knots. I haven't done yet more throughout tests about the consumption versus speed, but I know when it's calm I can go 3 knots with only 30 amps of power. That speed gets me twice the hours than going 4 kts. The 48V mode is only for emergency situations, when I need the speed and power to go upwind or against harsh conditions.
Andrew was the firstborn. With him I also introduced the
new 220Ah battery banks to the boat.
The positive surprise is to notice that the efficiency of my geared solution is pretty good if I compare it to the cheap 1.1kW outboard that I had last year that was giving me just about 3 knots of speed at full power and using around 30-40 amps. So I've began to think that this electric motor style is gonna be the one that take me around and now that I have two working shells, I will keep the smaller one(Evinrude) with me as a spare, if something happens to the shaft, gear of prop. I haven't got the regeneration to work yet, cos my main goal was to make a working electric propulsion motor first, then if I can get it to charge my batteries, that will be just a bonus :)
I'm happy about what I've archived so far with the boat. Trust is something that you have to earn. You cannot buy it, nor get for free. On trust you can build something that makes you confident. That's how I've been starting to feel about my boat and my plans. And that feels good ;)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Back to the Plan A

I came to Florida for an adventure. And I got one. But it was not all that I hoped. So I'm flying back to Finland today.
I spent over 7 weeks here, but cos the troubles with the 27ft sailboat we couldn't sail more than 3 weeks and only got to Keys on our mission to get her to Panama. Last 3 weeks I just hung around on a marina in Marathon FL and thought that there's still time to do stuff with my own boat back in Finland. I used my time waiting here to research improvements and new add-on's for my boat and got really excited again to continue my original plans.
First thing that I'm gonna do once I get to Finland is start building a new outboard motor. Last year I was looking into buying the Torqeedo 2.0 Cruise 2kw motor, but cos I like the idea of using also the propeller for generating electricity, I now have something different in my mind... something that I'm not sure anybody have tried before ;)
Last night in Marathon FL
I learned a lot on this trip. I regret nothing. Even though things didn't work out here the way I wanted. I met a whole bunch of great, funny and friendly people. I got to see the culture of US. But the biggest thing that I got was my confidence and certainty towards my own plan - to go around with only the energy that I get from sun, wind and water :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Down south to Key West

So we started sailing from Clearwaters Tampa. The purpose of the trip is to transfer the little Columbia 27ft sailing boat to Panama. We left about 2 weeks ago and been making a slow progress fixing some problems on our way. There was no schedule or hurry so we've enjoyed the ride and take it easy. But once we got to Key West our engine wasn't responding anymore to our attempts to recover it.. Now we are trying to get the boat to marina in Marathon to get the engine fixed.

Remember to check out more updates and short videos from my Google+ feed!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Boats and beaches

So I've been over a week now in Tampa, Florida. Not much has happened in the sailing side, but today we finally got to untie the lines! I've been working on this small boat almost daily, but every time we've got something fixed we've found another problem. Mostly it's been engine related.. Let's just say that I've been hugging the diesel motor a lot lately ;) You know that I'm a big fan of electric motors, but now I can appreciate them even more!
Our plan is to sail this boat first to Key West, then maybe through Havana and Cayman islands to Panama. If everything goes we'll be starting this trip next week! :D

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Adventure begins

Things don't always go as planned. But that doesn't mean that they go wrong. I believe that there's always an infinitive number of possibilities and routes for the same outcome. None of them are "wrong" - just different. Every possibility can be the next adventure if want it to be.
Next week I'll fly to Florida. There will be boats. Some of them we'll sail to Panama. And there will be more boats. Then we'll sail even further. That's about all I know. And that's enough for me. I've been promised only one thing: Adventure.
And that's all I need :)
Sailing towards sunrise...
Stay tuned for new videos and posts on my YouTube channel and Google+ page!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New direction

Ok, now I'm confident enough to say it aloud: I'm flying to Panama before the end of April. So what is this all about and what does this mean?
Well I got some email back in December from a captain in Caribbean and who had seen my "introduction" video on YouTube. So he asked me if I wanted to come and join his crew and boats in Caribbean? Soon after I learned more about what they were doing there I got very interested. I realized that this is going to be ones in a lifetime opportunity!
Last few months I've been basically making preparations and waiting for the right moment to book my flights to Panama. So what am I gonna do there? Well the captain runs a high school for students who want a change from traditional high school experience and an opportunity to learn life skills like sailing and camping. I've been working as a school photographer for 8 years and made about 100,000 individual kids to smile and laugh with me, so I'm really waiting for to share my knowledge with them.
My brother gave me a map of Caribbean
for a Christmas present ;)
But what about my original plan and boat? Well if everything goes fine(and why shouldn't it?)this means that my initial plans are put to hold. How long? Well I've been given an opportunity to learn a lot more about sailing and bigger boats and a possibility to adapt my dream of sailing around the world with them. In that case I think I'm gonna sell my boat here in Finland.
But will I ever do the "zero fuel" solo circumnavigating? I'm not sure. Time will tell. But if I will, then I know a whole lot more about sailing, boats and the seas and probably have a different approach to my plans, which is gonna make them bigger and better :)
I'll continue making videos and posts to share my adventures in Caribbean and beyond so even though this is a side path from where I started, it's still gonna take me towards my dreams of seeing the world and making a difference.
Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New start

This is the first post of many to follow. This is the first step towards a path that has no signs. I only know that I have to go - now.
About a year ago I dived in the sea and told my plans to the world. Many things has happened since. Things that I couldn't even dream of. But at first there was nothing - those things that I wished didn't come. I waited. I waited for a miracle without doing enough for it. Then I stopped and did something. I loaned money and got the cheapest boat that could do the trick. I forgot the icy swim and took the wheel back to my hands. After that things started to escalate.
I got offers to join other boats and people who were inspired by my plans. Then came the challenge to decide what path to take when they all seemed to go in the same direction but also in the same time. I chanced my mind many times until I understood that there isn't a right or wrong way to do it - only different ways.
I'm gonna end this first post in a cliff hanger. There is something big in a horizon for me, but I don't want to tell more until it happens in real time... ;)
Enjoying the hottest summer in Finland with an autopilot :D