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Why we chose an electric motor for our sailboat...

Is an electric motor right for your boat?

When we decided to change our lives and live-aboard a sailboat, we knew we wanted to make it off grid. The allure of sailboat life is its intrinsic connection with nature and the freedom of having your home where ever you are. But it's not as peaceful and luxurious as people make yacht owning out to be. First off, you might assume that because a sailboat uses wind and sails to get around, that it is automatically off grid. On the contrary, sailboats are filled with a plethora of things that keep it dependent on docking on a regular basis. The typical diesel engine that most boats have is just the tip of the iceberg. So that was our first major obstacle to change.

Thankfully electrical motor technology has come leaps and bounds. Electrical cars are now more affordable and more common than ever. However, sailboats are still in a transition period where the needs of long distance motoring have not yet been met. There are many people that are still on the fence when it comes to electrical boat motors because of this. The electrical motoring distance is still restricted by the battery capacity on the boat or if you have a sufficient amount of solar panels or wind turbines that can generate the necessary energy. The majority of the time this will still be significantly less than a tank of diesel. This opens up the complaints on safety. If you are in an urgent moment where you have to motor for a significant amount of time, will your electric motor be able to? So with current technology it, comes down to this – if you have an electric motor, you have to have a different boating lifestyle.

But for us, the benefits far out weigh any effects on our lifestyle....

The positives are beyond noticeable for anyone on board. There is no noise, no smell, and no exhaust. You have instant power output with no need for engine rev settling and no pre-start waiting. Though the initial costs can be higher, the maintenance costs are much lower. And not only are the electric motors better for the environment, there are also less restrictions.

But what do we mean by a "different lifestyle"?

The use of the electric motor is mainly for getting in and out of marinas or in important situation. The rest of the time you are committed to do what your boat does best, and that is sail. Here in Brazil, there are many motor sailors that prop up their sails and then never turn the motor off. Perhaps in regions like these where there can be long periods without wind, this can be an issue. And that get's us to our second point; planning. When you have an electric motor, planning is going to be even more important. Living aboard an electric boat might mean that you live more in tune with mother nature. And that means sailing when the wind blows and waiting it out if it's not. That is not to say that we will never use our motor unless we are in dire need.

One quick solution to extending your electric motor range is to have a diesel generator on board for emergencies. Many people chose to have this option available to them and that gives them the sense of security needed. There might even be certain regions (like polar regions) that require this option. We are still researching this option to decide if this is something we will have on board the Lahakai.

All this is not saying that electrical motors do not have what we need. Electrical motors can have a significant amount of power and motoring hours in them. However this depends on many factors. Here are a few:

  1. How much battery power is available?

  2. Are the battery resources being allocated to other things?

  3. How fast are you traveling?

  4. What is the rate of recharging? (to extend your battery life)

These are all of the points we will be testing once we have our electric motor installed in order to have the parameters we can travel around safely.

What electrical motor did we choose for our sailboat?

We did research on many of the companies that provide electrical motors for sailboats and we found that the for the price point, power and options available, that Torqeedo fit the bill for our 34.5 foot steel sailboat. We decided to go with the Cruise 12.0 FP TorqLink by Torqeedo. This electric motor is best suited for sailboats up to 12 tons. The Lahakai sailboat is projected to weigh around 6 to 6.5 tons when it is completely finished. This puts it right between the the Cruise 6.0 and the Cruise 12.0 in their Pod Drive electric motor line. So the upgrade to the 12.0 was the better fit for maximum usage of the motor and knowing that we have plenty of power available if we need it.

Cruise 12.0 FP TorqLink Technical Specs:
Torqeedo Cruise pod-drive electric boat motors - Technical data
Torqeedo Cruise pod-drive electric boat motors - Technical data

Unboxing our 25 HP Electric Motor by Torqeedo

Notable Torqeedo Cruise Pod drive Sales Points:

  • Smaller and lighter than combustion sail drives

  • Virtually silent while in use

  • No fuel or oil to leak or stink

  • Minimal impact on sailing speed

  • Durable design and excellent corrosion protection for fresh and salt water

We are going to put these bullet points to the test once we install and get our Pod Drive running on the Lahakai.

Suggested setup by Torqeedo:
Torqeedo Electric Boat Motor Setup
Torqeedo Electric Boat Motor Setup

The benefits of Hydrogeneration

A bonus to the Cruise Fixed Pods are their ability to use Hydrogeneration which means that when you are sailing and the motor is not in use, the propeller can be used to charge its own battery. In our case we did opt to get the additional folding propeller that we found was recommended not only to reduce drag but also because it's construction is stronger since the blades are made of metal instead of the plastic propellers (that come with the pod drives). This does reduce the benefits of hydrogeneragtion, however it is still there and any little gain in battery power is a big win.

Torqeedo Hydrogeneration
Torqeedo Hydrogeneration

Installing and testing our electrical motor...

As of now we are still in the middle of our construction and have not installed our electrical motor just yet. However once we do we will be publishing our results, experiences and a full review of our Cruise Pod Drive. So stay tuned!!


If you would like more information on our Torqeedo electrical Pod Drive motor we choose, please visit these links below:


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