"Current Situation" DIY Efficient Solar/Electric Powered Newport 17 Project.

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by ElectroDanO, Jan 1, 2021.

  1. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    I wanted to start this thread to document progress on this project and also discuss and gather links/information on the subject of efficiently pushing a boat with electric propulsion. Lots of good info out there but it's all over the place...

    Goals for this project: Reliability, economical, user-friendly, good range(sustainable with solar?), functionality and an acceptable cruising speed. Oh, I want her to be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing also... That's a lot to ask, but I think we'll get there. :D

    So, I decided to hold off on designing/building my own hull. I realized I need way more time and knowledge before I attempt that. I did want to continue the solar/electric project though, so I picked up an old sailboat! Let's go ahead and get this out of the way: I do NOT plan on sailing this boat for many reasons. I'm keeping all of the sailing gear and do not plan to hack or modify anything on the hull.

    May 22nd 2019 we went to look at a 1976 Lockley/Newport 17. It had been sitting outside, under a tree, bow down, for a long while. She was pretty sad looking... Let's do it!
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    We started the scrubbing as soon as we got home.
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    A few days later: Much better!
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    Maiden voyage/float test time! I put on a stock 30lb trolling motor and we put her in the water. I didn't know what was going to happen. She did pretty good! With four people, all of our gear and a very tired lead acid battery, she was slow, but got us back home. I could see the potential already though!
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    The teak was hammered, but it all came back with a little TLC.
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    There were two 24 series deep cycle FLA leftover from my buddies jet boat project. I robbed those. And also his old trailer! I hated that sailboat trailer...
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    I rewired the whole boat, added LED bulbs and made a switch panel with charging ports.
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    I went to work on the Minn Kota 30 with a PWM, 10 awg wire, and of course an APC prop with spinner!
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    Solar setup is just a couple of cheap 100w flexible panels thrown on the bimini top and a 20a Epever MPPT charger.
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    That was enough to get us through the summer. Man, she really did good! Lots of good times were had. Oh, I decided to name her "Current Situation". Seems about perfect.:cool:
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    I'll post more later. It's winter and upgrade time! Let me know what you guys think!
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    That is a wonderful project that you have there Dan.

    And you made an excellent decision re buying an existing second hand hull, rather than designing and building your own.

    There is some reference info on the Newport 17 here -
    https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/newport-17

    In view of how you have no intention to use the sailing rig on this boat, you could perhaps consider building a more solid bimini which could support rigid solar panels? I do not know much about solar panels, but I think that you probably get more power from rigid panels than from flexible panels per unit area?
     
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  3. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
    Posts: 1,559
    Likes: 391, Points: 83
    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    Nice going Dan. I hope others learn from your actions.

    From what I know about panels, the flexibles are fine
    and way lighter than the rigid panels.
    But avoid even a rope crossing them as any shade causes
    a ridiculously large power drop.
    Can you turn them 90 degrees and add one?
    With the MPPT, you would benefit from another panel.

    Nice set-up. Good on ya!
     
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  4. portacruise
    Joined: Jun 2009
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    Location: USA

    portacruise Senior Member

    Congrats on a great and successfully efficient project, and thanks for sharing progress!

    A fairing around the trolling motor down tube for the section immersed in water has been proven to help efficiency quite a bit, from a previous forum posting. If you are in an area that is prone to wind gusts, there might be an issue as regards the loosely attached solar panels. Maybe a way to cover the gaps between the Bimini and the solar panels would help? Just a couple of tweaks, should you be interested.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
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  5. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    Thank you guys! It may be silly, but I'm really having fun with this thing. I'm thirsty for more!

    bajansailor: I think this was a far better idea. Old sailboats can be had for cheap and seem to have a pretty efficient hull design for displacement running using low power. That was my thinking anyway...

    You're right, ridged panels are cheaper and perform better than flexible. Problem is, they're far heavier, so like you said, they really would need to be solid mounted to something stronger than just a bimini. I'm not sold on either one at the moment, but I do like the bimini top!

    BlueBell: This is such a simple and cheap idea. And it works! Not sure why this isn't being done more often. I'm just getting started. I think decent results can be had with better equipment and working on efficiency. I'm dang sure going to try!

    Shading is a problem with any panel, especially when wired in series. These are wired in parallel now, but I plan to change that to series this winter. Shading shouldn't be an issue for me. I could add another panel or two, but to be honest, these cheap flexibles don't put out near what they are advertised at. I really need new panels if I go to upgrade. Lesson learned...

    portacruise: I feel like it's been pretty successful so far just using using cheap and simple stuff I mostly had laying around.

    I really want to push this trolling motor on 12v some more and see what we can get out of it. I definitely want to make a fairing and maybe mount it to the center of the boat. I think the post you're talking about is the Efficien elecric boat thread by Jermy Harris. Gosh, I've read though that so many times! Here's the link to page 17 where it really gets good. Efficient electric boat https://www.boatdesign.net/threads/efficient-electric-boat.27996/page-17?fbclid=IwAR3GiokK4ire6MZ2ZPeLdDKQ5VOfxotlGDC96tubY50D62hhgmLYAquQWnE#post305142
     
  6. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    Okay, we've established that you can push an old sailboat around(slowly) with very basic and easy stuff. Let's put some effort into it and see what happens!

    First upgrade is ditching the old lead acid batteries. Old setup was two 24 series deep cycles in parallel. They were old and tired when I got my hands on them and never really held voltage like they should have. I noticed when I pulled(wrestled?) them out for the last time that one battery was in very bad shape and ready for the scrap yard. Good riddance!

    I've been super impressed with LiFePO4 chemistry for a while and wanted to give that a try. So many advantages, but the initial cost can get scary. I found a good deal on eight new 105ah EVE cells and snatched them up! Time to build a battery or two...

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  7. kerosene
    Joined: Jul 2006
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    Location: finland

    kerosene Senior Member

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  8. alan craig
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: s.e. england

    alan craig Senior Member

    Great project, more successful than mine! I think your boat is big enough to support a couple of conventional glass panel/ali. frames. Three flexi panels on my little 14ft. rowboat made it slightly unstable, and I've had enough of lead batteries - lithium for me too this year.
     
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  9. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    kerosene: Man, that's a cool looking project! I'm not well versed on hull design, but it looks(to me) like it would be light years more efficient than my old boat. I think you could move that thing pretty good with FAR less than 1000 watts! That being said, with my little 12v trolling motor, tired lead batteries and an 11x6 APC prop, this boat runs a little over 3 MPH pulling only 180 watts. I definitely want to get a couple more MPH out of her and I think with lithium cells, brushless motors and efficient props, we can get away with smaller batteries/solar and still "keep up". That's really what I'm after with this project. Maximize efficiency and hopefully more speed will be a welcomed side effect.

    Cool to see you mention William Fraser. That dude is my hero! He's definitely getting this stuff figured out. All of his videos are a wealth of knowledge, especially the prop video!


    alan craig: I'm definitely going to get better panels down the road. I'm sure I could mount 600+ watts of rigid panels if needed, but I want to see how we can get this thing to run with 300ish watts of power first. There's a lot of cons to the flexible panels, but being light and easy to work with sure is nice. We'll worry about that later. I'm super excited about these new lithium batteries! What an upgrade that will be. The old FLA batteries were around 93lbs and the lifepo4 are 17lbs each with higher voltage and probably double the capacity. That's going to be cool! Yeah, I don't think we'll be going back there again...:cool:
     
  10. Will Fraser
    Joined: Feb 2014
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    Location: South Africa

    Will Fraser Senior Member

    That is an interesting hull shape, not what I would have expected from a sailboat.
    It looks very much like a semi-displacement hull with those firm bilges and wide transom. Not much rocker to speak of either. It might be worth your while testing performance with different amounts of longitudinal trim. Something to keep in mind when deciding where to install the batteries.

    Did you ever test the performance with the original Minn Kota prop?
    At what throttle setting did you achieve the 3mph and 180W draw?
     
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  11. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    Thanks for checking in Will!

    The bottom of this boat reminds me of a really wide canoe with the rear quarter cut off. If there's any rocker, it's almost nothing. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not for my purposes(I think it is), but it's definitely shallow draft and seems to move okay with very little thrust. I feel like it's pretty light for it's size also. That's my non-professional take on it anyways.

    I was wondering if there might be gains to be had playing with COG/trim. I did play with the prop angle a few times and neutral was always best. I haven't tried moving weight around yet. I didn't put much effort into the FLA setup. Didn't take long for the lithium project to move to the top of the list!

    I did record data from the start but it's so flawed, I hate to even post it. So many variables with the biggest being changing GPSs and horrible battery health. Voltage drop was a little worse every time I went out. Just over 3mph at 180w was all she had there at the end of the season. 100% wide open...

    I'll start from scratch this year with a dedicated GPS and stable voltage among other things. Come on warm weather!!!
     
  12. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Lakeland Fl USA

    messabout Senior Member

    EDO, thank you for the stimulating post. Your project is one that deserves plenty of development. Our world is moving in the low or no carbon direction so your experiments are appropriate. That is not all. The electric propulsion lets the boat move with minimum noise. Our world is super polluted with noise and any relief is welcome for some of the curmudgeonly types like me.

    For many years I was an outboard dealer, we sold and serviced fast boats, ski boats, small cruising boats and other cacophonous mechanisms. Over time I became a sailing enthusiast partly because of the growing opposition to noise and the madcap behavior of my "gotta go fast" customers. Your project is a breath of fresh air that is somewhat out of the mainstream. Here is wishing you the best of luck with the project.

    Full disclosure: In my youth I was an APBA hydroplane racer as well as a motorcycle road racer. As one gets older, priorities change. .
     
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  13. ElectroDanO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 24
    Likes: 16, Points: 3
    Location: Smyrna TN

    ElectroDanO Current Situation

    Thanks for the positive feedback messabout. I turned the big 4-0 a few months ago and could ramble for days replying to your post. Especially the full disclosure. I've been(and still somewhat am) full blown in the "gotta go fast" world, but like you said, priorities change. My friends think I'm weird and I guess it's just an old faded sailboat with a trolling motor but the happiness per dollar is off the charts with this thing. Now that's a breath of fresh air! What a slap in the face to the whole "Bust Out Another Thousand" saying. Less is more with this project and I intend to keep that theme going as we move forward.:cool: And yes, the silent operation is something I never knew I would appreciate so much, especially on a boat like this. As I look towards upgrading the motor/drive, I now have to add quietness to the "priority" list...:eek:

    Well, how about some inside wintertime progress!?!?

    While researching LiFePO4(that's a lot of reading starting from zero!), I found a discussion on compressing these aluminum case prismatic cells to extend cycle life. Sounded good to me, so that's what the springs are about. Still a few little things to finish up, but here's what I came up with. BTW, a lot of the supplies were scraps, leftovers or trash from other projects. Always feels good to save stuff from the trash, save some money and make something cool!:cool:

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  14. Heimfried
    Joined: Apr 2015
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    Location: Berlin, Germany

    Heimfried Senior Member

    Dan, thank you for this thread!
    I'm currently building a 6.3 m ply on frame cabine motor kat (started 2017) and she will go electric, as far as possible solar assisted. Silent operation is an important goal for me. So your detailed pics and descriptions are very precious to me.

    Gruss, G√ľnter
     
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  15. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Heimfried, I just had a look at your profile and I saw this link for the Ecocat that you are building - she does look very neat.
    ECO 62 Houseboat Plans https://duckworks.com/eco-62-houseboat-plans/

    And I scrolled through your posts to see if there was a build thread for her in there somewhere, but I couldn't find one.
    If you have not started one, would you like to start a new thread to tell us about your boat, and her construction progress?
     
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