Thursday 25 April 2013

Diesel hybrid boat engines.

Figures published earlier this month by the AA show that UK petrol sales fell by almost a quarter between 2007 and 2012.  If you look at the recent sales increase for diesel fuel and diesel-engine vehicles, it should not be a surprise that petrol production is slowly being reduced. 

Are any of the diesel marine engines actually engineered for fuel economy?

Many boats have diesel engines, which are based on fairly standard diesel engines that have been modified for marine use. Improvements in diesel technology have made diesels more fuel efficient, more modern diesels aren't the smoky noisy engines they were years ago. Not only that but because diesels are more fuel efficient, boaters might expect that over the long-term, that they will save money by the improved efficiency.

The problem is that boat engines can be run for long periods just charging batteries or left at tickover when a boat is passing through a lock. Diesel engines are getting more expensive to purchase because of the new emissions regulations, A new set which are due to come into effect in 2014, are even more stringent, so production costs will rise again. Imagine if you had an electrical propulsion power source not requiring the engine to run. one that was available just for short term use such as when passing through a lock. Many engine hours could be saved every year. A smaller engine could also be used to provide the electrical charge for propulsion and the extra power boost that might be needed for short periods in time could come from the electrical hybrid power pack. A similar sort of technology is used in formula one racing cars, where energy is harvested and then used to boost performance for short period.

So is there a future for marine hybrid engines?

Diesel hybrid engines can be configured to use electric motors to generate some of their propulsion power. Hybrids engines are not just cheaper, but they can offer better fuel economy on some engines. When economic demand and industrial production picks up, this will inevitably lead to higher prices for red or white diesel. When you decide what kind of engine to go for, in your new build boat you are to some extent taking a gamble on the future fuel costs and an unknown economy. Add into the equation solar panels that can provide further electrical energy by harvesting sunlight and things begin to look much better.

Boats used on the inland waterways could well have a mosaic of solar cells applied to their outer shell. This idea to cover surfaces with solar cells is to a point old technology and there are boats already that provide their motive power from solar energy collectors. As solar technology develops alongside improved battery design and materials this would seem to complement the use of hybrid engine technology.


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