My Experience with EV – Part 5 Motor Mounts

As I said earlier, one of the biggest perks to an electric motor was being able to open up my floor. Previously, in the middle of my cabin was a large coffee table the hid the Yanmar. Now that the Yanmar is gone, I decided to oust the coffee table as well. The new electric motor will be small enough to fit under the floor boards, so time for some renovation!

Cinderella’s Yanmar Diesel engine space converted to house the new tiny motor drive. We call him “Ol’ Sparky”

The first step was to break out the saws and cut away the fiberglass bed that the motor mounted to. This turned out to be a serious PITA. Lots of sweat, saws, and beers later, I had cut the old mounts away. For the record, the sawzall was the best tool for the job, I cut the fiberglass with a dremel and followed it with the sawzall. Any fine work I did with the Ryobi all in one, it’s easy to handle and can cut any of the funky angles. Of course, various pry bars made the process much quicker as well.

The fun thing about this boat project is that all of the tools I own are aboard along with all of my belongings (after all I do live on the boat), so I tend to get crafty with the tools I have to complete the job. I have not come across anything yet that my $250 Ryobi cordless set can’t handle.

After the engine bed was removed, I was left with a hole in the floor, which was no good. Fortunately, someone at the marina had decided to tear up his old teak deck and throw it away! New floorboards were free.

I was hoping to make the floor flush, and my Ericson has a slight downward angle in the floor which I had to account for when I was cutting the boards to fit. I decided to make the floor in 3 panels. The first panel would be made of wood (free teak), the second and third panel would be made together and later cut into separate pieces. Because the second panel was also to be the new electric motor mount, I decided to make a template out of cardboard to use when I get the steel/aluminum panel that the motor will mount to.

After cutting the board and cardboard to fit, I wrapped them in wax paper so I could use them to bed the fiberglass I will be using to make the floor flush.

Fiberglass is easy to do once you get the hang of it, but it really takes a toll on my patience! Fortunately, the controller hasn’t arrived in the mail yet, or I would be chomping at the bit as I watched the fiberglass dry.

When they installed the engine, they did me a great service and aligned it using a CV type joint rather than directly connecting the transmission to the propeller shaft. What this means for me is that I don’t have to worry as much about aligning the motor perfectly and the thrust from the propeller won’t damage my new electric motor. I just have to make/find a coupling to convert the CV flange to my electric motor’s 3/4″ shaft.

I inquired at one of the local machine shops and was quotes $300! No way was I going to spend that kind of money on a little piece of metal, surely there was another way. After work, I drove down to the local bearing shop and found a sprocket that mounts to my motor, and fits into the bolt pattern of the CV joint, and for a mere $27! One last mounting challenge, I need to find a steel or aluminum plate that I can transfer my cardboard template onto and use to mount the motor to the floor….

Follow along on My Experience with EV – Part 6 as I finish up the motor mounts.

My Experience with EV – Part 4 Buying MORE Goodies

While I sit here anxiously waiting for my parts to arrive, I decided to sit down and draw out a wiring diagram for what my system will look like. Kelly Controls has a recommended wiring diagram on their website for their controller, so I started there and added a few things specific to my system.

Electric Sailboat, Manta 2, Manta Drive, PNW Sailing, Cinderella
This is the rudimentary schematic I drew up for the Manta Drive, I am sure some things will change, but its 80% accurate.

First off, I wanted a key to turn everything on and off, to keep people from jumping on-board and taking Cinderella for a joy ride without my permission. I also wanted a buzzer and a fan that will kick on if the motor got too hot for any reason. And because amazon is at your fingertips, I bought a couple of meters to display the battery percentage, the amps being drawn, the battery voltage, and the total energy used. This should make the system look a little sleeker and give me feedback on how it’s running. The wiring diagram also called for a resistor, a diode, and two switches (one to enable regen, and one to go between forward and reverse.)

After a few hours comparing options, I hit the bank account for another 30.62 bringing my total to 638.97.

The last components required are a throttle lever and 3 batteries. This should be another ~$400.

This should bring my total cost of the system to 1038.97, or 1588.97 excluding the engine sale. Not too bad considering I was expecting $1700 overall. Before I get too excited, let’s wait and see how it goes.

Follow along on My Experience with EV – Part 5 for adventures in motor mounts.

My Experience with EV – Part 3 Buying the Goodies

After loads and loads of searching through online EV forums and watching videos on YouTube, I decided to take a chance on the Manta 2 DC permanent magnet electric motor. I was able to find the motor and an adapter plate on EBay for a cool $463.35 with tax and shipping ($60 above my estimate, but I also purchased a mount). Wohoo!! It’s happening!

Right around this time, I managed to sell the Yanmar for $550 to a friend who is building up his own sailboat, an Islander 30. This is big, as it will offset ~ 1/3 of the cost to repower Cinderella. I could have parted out the engine and probably broken even, but the time and care involved was not something I wanted to take on.

So, I have a motor, but what about the rest? I needed a controller, what’s a controller, how do they work? Back to Google. Let’s simplify controllers, they are a means to “control” power flow into an electric motor to vary the speed of your motor. Otherwise, you have either full speed or no speed. Which, as you can imagine is not ideal when trying to maneuver in tight quarters.

Classically, DC motors were controlled by resistors. Resistors simply take the energy going into a motor and burn it off as heat, therefore reducing the energy going to the motor. Nice, simple, right? Wrong! “Burning off” as heat translates to poor efficiency and also adds heat to electronics which substantially shortens their life.

Enter the controller, the controller plays upon the concept of Pulse Width Modulation or PWM, a fancy acronym for a simple concept. Basically a microprocessor (think computer) controls a series of switches (kind of like really small light switches) which open and close very, very quickly. When this happens the stream of energy going to the motor is stopped, then started, then stopped, then started and so forth from those switches. The end result is a means to speed up and slow down an electric motor without excessive losses.

That’s great, but I still don’t know very much about controllers, which one do I need, what do I need to watch out for? I am after all pretty new to all of this.

More research, more google, and I landed on a company called Kelly Controls LLC. Kelly Controls makes controllers for all sorts of applications, for both AC and DC motors. Kelly Controls have a couple of benefits that set them apart from the others: cost, programmability, reverse, and regen ability.

The controller decision was possibly the most challenging so far. There are a handful of major brands: Alltrax, Curtis, Kelly, Sevcon and a few others. I only know this due to the EV forums, which spoke highly of Alltrax, Sevcon and Curtis, but had mixed reviews of Kelly.

From what I could tell, most of the major EV sailboat kits out there utilize Sevcon controllers. Why did I land on Kelly? Well after speaking with a few of the companies, I was told that their controllers “Don’t do regen” with PM motors. They also don’t reverse internally, I would need to buy another $200 component to make that work. Bummer! The decision was simplified, Kelly Controls it would be.

Controllers are rated by two basic numbers, Amps and Volts, sounds an awful lot like high school physics. Both of these components are defined by the motor and battery bank choice. Amps, or the measure of current through your system is the limiting factor for all things battery.

Batteries are rated in Amp/hrs or the amount of current that they can provide for a set amount of time. Remember I said my electric system in the boat pulled about 20-30 amps at 12V? That probably means little to anyone that hasn’t had a refresher in high school physics, but it simply means I can run my electronics for about 10 hours before I need to charge the batteries. The same concept applies to my electric motor, the only difference is that the motor will use a higher voltage, and the amp draw will vary with how fast I want to go.

After comparing Cinderella’s system with that of other conversions, I will hope to run Cinderella between 20 and 60 amps. That translates to speeds of about 2-4 kts or roughly 2-5 mph for those non-boaters.

Knowing this, I should be able to motor for 1 – 4 hrs on my cheap batteries and 2-8 hrs on the ideal Oasis Firefly’s. But the Fireflies will last a lot longer and can take more abuse between charges, they are the ideal battery. Motoring slowly, I should expect about a 30-40 mile range which is sufficient to allow Cinderella to get through the locks and into the Puget Sound (1.5 mile trip), remember I plan to regen under sail, and will eventually install solar panels. This should allow for plenty of summer sailing fun while I get my funds in order to upgrade before I make the trip around the marble.

Alright back to my controller choice. I will be running Cinderella’s motor at 48V, so I have one of the numbers figured out, what about the Amps? I told you I plan to run the motor at 20-60 amps right? Well the motor is capable of 100 amps, and from what I read, you want at least 50% head room to keep the controller running efficiently (why they don’t rate them practically is beyond me). This narrowed my search down to a 48V 200-300 Amp controller capable of regenerative braking. I also wanted the controller to have the ability to reverse the charge to the motor which will allow me to reverse without buying more components.

With those stipulations, I settled upon the Kelly Controls PM48301, a 300A 48V controller with Regen for $349. Along with the controller I purchased some fuses to protect the wiring, a contactor to allow for an on/off key switch, and a heat sink to help keep the controller cool in the tropics. The total purchase price was $695 with shipping.

This brings my total to $1158.35 if we subtract $550 for the engine I sold, that figure becomes 608.35. Not too bad, I’m still on track with my budget. I still need batteries and a lever that can convert my boats throttle lever into an electrical signal that the controller can recognize.

Follow along on My Experience with EV – Part 4 where I buy more electronics to get Cinderella electric.

My Experience with EV – Part 2 Planning Time

Electric, Sailboat, Propulsion

Out with the Yanmar! On to craigslist it went. A few months prior I started watching some sailing channels on YouTube, one of which was Sailing Uma. I would highly recommend this channel and their website here, they have loads of do it yourself information, and are just inspiring to watch.

The inspiration for the electric drive came because of a few episodes Sailing Uma did about going electric.  It looked clean, simple, and absolutely great! My interest was piqued. Conventional wisdom would tell me “battery technology isn’t there yet” “you won’t have much range” “electric motors are fine on flat water, but what about wind and waves”

That last one that really hit me hard. If there is wind I will… SAIL! After all, Cinderella is a sailboat, and we do intend to SAIL around the world. So I started researching, lots of researching.

Unlike internal combustion engines, I had no experience with electric motors. I didn’t even know how they worked. Are there different kinds? Which is best?

This took me down a path that lead me all the way back to Nicola Tesla, inventor of more electric gizmos that I realized. After lots of articles, a book, My Electric Sailboats, and some searching of the various electric vehicle forums, I was convinced. Electric is the way of the future, and oddly enough, it was the way of the past.

Electric, Sailboat, Propulsion

I began by calling around the local scrap yards and electric motor shops here is Seattle to try and source a cheap, used electric motor. No luck. To Ebay!

I was eventually persuaded to small permanent magnet electric motors in the 5000 – 7000 watt size. Due to the limited capacity in batteries and the cost of components, 48 volts was the goal, which would require 4 batteries. There are a slew of battery options out there, which to choose?

During one of my many stops at Fisheries Supply, I was handed a business card for Alex and Jack Wilkens at Seattle Boat Works. It’s amazing how tight knit the boating community here in the PNW really is, and everyone seems to be trying to help each other out.

I gave Alex a call the following week. I told him of my plan and asked for some advice. Alex was really helpful and after I sent him Cinderella’s specs, he happily did some calculations and gave me a rundown of what I should expect of my proposed system. Alex was really up to date with battery tech and gave me recommendations . It boiled down to really two options, use a conventional AGM system or a bank of Oasis Firefly batteries.

Ultimately, I hope to go the route of the Oasis Firefly, but cost unfortunately is keeping me away from them at the moment. I have way too many projects on my hands with Cinderella already. In the meantime I will make do with the tried and true cheap ol’ lead acid marine deep cycle batteries, 4 of which should cost about $400 and I already have one compared to the $2000 of a Firefly system.

The picture started coming together, let’s take a look at the expected cost:

Motor – $400

Controller – $400

Batteries – $300

Charger – $200

Misc – $300

Total – ~$1600

All in all, not too bad considering the cost of a new diesel engine is ~$7000 and this has the prospect of “maintenance free” operation which should simplify things considerably. I could also fit the motor beneath the floor boards in Cinderella which would completely open up the cabin! No more obtrusive coffee table.

I was also excited at the idea of regenerative braking, or the ability to charge my battery bank with my propeller while under sail. According to the web forums, this is theoretical, and I shouldn’t expect much, but Alex at Seattle Boat Works said he saw as much as 7 amps  at 48V DC going back into the batteries while under sail, and only at 4 kts! I was intrigued.

I have an idea of current draw from installing a fancy Blue Sea Systems electric panel in Cinderella. Cinderella draws about 20 -30 amps of 12V DC while underway with instruments, lights, ipad charging, fridge, stereo and stove on at any given point in time. Granted this is a rough estimate, but by switching to LED for running and interior lights I have room to dramatically reduce my current draw, and while under sail I can offset a large portion of this without any solar or wind!

Follow along on My Experience with EV – Part 3 where I buy expensive electronic things.

My Experience with EV – Part 1 Yanmar, an Expensive Anchor

Sailing, Cinderella, PNW, Yanmar, Diesel, Engine, Electric, Propulsion,

STOP!! Before you write me off as another tree hugger from the (always rainy) PNW and let’s take a look at Cinderella’s soon to be new auxiliary propulsion system.

Shortly after I bought S/V Cinderella, her Yanmar 2gm20f diesel engine began giving me headaches. Diesel engines were new to me, all of my engine experience has been with gasoline engines, and I would call myself an amateur mechanic at best. I understand the principles, and have rebuilt my share of engines, but very infrequently and always on a budget.

Yanmar, @GM20F, Diesel, Engine,

The curious “engineering”  mind that I have spent several hours scouring google and web forums on what could be causing my diesel heartache. Finally, I was able to stir the motor to life (with much trouble) just in time to take our big trip north with the boat last Christmas for 14 days.

Check out that story here!

The Yanni conked out on day one. That left Ava and I to learn Cindy’s tendencies under sail in tight marinas for the remainder of the trip. It turned out to be an incredible experience, and the lack of diesel noise was absolutely amazing.

Upon returning from the trip, I promptly removed the Yanmar and tore her down to replace the piston rings (deemed the issue). After getting the engine back in, the engine returned to exhibiting the same hard starting tendencies, but we could get off the dock again under power, I was happy.

The second trip we took on Cinderella was shortly after getting the engine reinstalled. It was summer in Seattle, and the islands were calling. 10 of us went sailing out to an island Southwest of Seattle called Blake Island. I turned the motor off shortly after exiting the locks and entering the sound, little did I know that would be one of the the last times I would hear her purr.

Upon arriving at the island and heading for a dock, she started (hesitantly) but died shortly thereafter. Again we relied on seamanship skills to coast the boat to the dock. When time came to leave the island and head home, she begrudgingly she roared to life and ran long enough to get us out of the marina. Giving up on her, we set the kite and headed north with a weak following wind.

After a peaceful day of sailing we returned to Seattle and tried to start the engine one last time to get through the locks and under the bridges in Lake Union. Cinderella has a big ol’ mast that doesn’t fit under any of the 3 bridges we must pass. The lock and bridge operators don’t take kindly to boats attempting to sail through, so it was a big deal. As I depressed that starter switch a horrible, gear grinding noise came from below letting me know that the starter had given its last turn.

Sails back up! To Shilshole we sail! It was dark and again we were coming in under sail. I think the crew was shocked at how easily Cinderella sailed right into the marina, making tight turns and eventually coming to a soft stop at the fuel dock. After saying farewell, our friends went on to catch cabs, and I sat there, quietly furious at that Yanmar engine. I was ready to use it as my anchor!

Into my mind the electric motor idea crept…

I called a tow in the morning to take me home to my slip. So glad to have BoatUS!

Sailing, Cinderella, PNW, Yanmar, Diesel, Engine, Electric, Propulsion,

Follow along on My Experience with EV – Part 2 as the planning begins!

Ahoy!

Here at S/V Cinderella we aim to inspire, teach, and motivate. S/V Cinderella is a dream, a dream to explore the world around us whether out sailing across the world or by simply opening our eyes.

About a year ago, as I sat, much like I am right now, in a hip, Seattle cafe, I was overwhelmed by an idea. That idea would soon spur into loads of fun, some crazy experiences, and hopefully take me onward to a lifetime of learning. I decided I was going to sail around the world. Prior to this moment, I had true knowledge of what that meant. I was naive enough to think it was a novel idea. I didn’t have the boat, I didn’t have the skills, I didn’t really even know where to begin.

Fast forward nine months, and I still probably haven’t made much headway on any of those, expect the boat. I have been a sponge, scouring forums, YouTube, loads of books, and chatting with any sailor who had been “out there.” even then I think I only know enough to be dangerous. After all, the sea in a mysterious entity and Cinderella is a small boat.

Come! Join me on my journey as I learn boat carpentry, fiberglass, engines, motors, plumbing, circuitry, and sailing.

 

Sailboat, Ericson, Sailing, Pacific Northwest,
Cinderella shortly after I bought her