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Marine Energy Part 1 – Hybrid Dreams

Bonny Mary In York

Bonny Mary In York

How Many Horses?

My partner and I are the proud owners of a narrow-boat, Bonny Mary, pictured above. Narrow-boats only go slowly which gives you lots of thinking time and I started to wonder why I was standing on top of a 38 horse power engine when for most of their history canal boats were propelled by one house power provided by one horse.

Worse still, on short cruising days, we end up running the same engine for long periods simply to charge the batteries up to run a few lights and the fridge. So I got to dreaming…

Hybrid Locking

You arrive at a lock and let your crew off. The muted hum from the heavily silenced and sound insulated diesel engine stops automatically. You move into the lock to the almost audible whirring of the electric drive motor. Any manoeuvring within the lock is similarly done using electric power only.

You leave the lock under electric power, pick up your crew, hit the cruise button and head off up the cut at your predefined cruising speed. After a little while the muted hum starts again as the diesel engine automatically re-starts.

Into The Wash

You’ve moored up for the evening and the days inevitable rain had left you with damp and muddy clothes. Into the washing machine they go and as the washing machine starts up, you notice the faint humming as the diesel engine automatically starts. It is quietly generating the extra electricity required to run the washing machine.

My daydream boat is fitted with a hybrid drive system integrated with the on board domestic energy systems. Part of the reason for my dreaming is that I develop electronic control systems for a living so I can see how easy it would be to do such sophisticated things with the automatic control systems.

Is it realistic?

The question is how much of a dream is it? Why bother with hybrid systems when diesel engines have been doing a fine job for 80 years and are still doing a fine job for the vast majority of boats. After all, hybrid boats have been around for a while now and they are still quite rare.

Why change – never mind dreaming, is it really worth doing? I will attempt to answer this in the next post on the subject.

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