by Grant Headifen,
Director of Education – NauticEd International Sailing Education
This past week I picked up my new Tesla Model 3. And I have to say that this vehicle is a huge step jump in driving experience. Each day this week, I noticed something new and awesome about the vehicle. A couple of wows that I did not expect was that it in auto mode in heavy traffic it follows the speed of the vehicle in front of me; it comes to a complete stop when it needs and then begins to move forward as the car in front takes off and matches its speed, when driving at night, it auto dimmed the lights when a car approached from in front. And that is just a couple of things. I’m sure I’ll find more over the coming weeks – or of course, I could read the manual – – – nah!
It surprised my subconscious also. When I put my foot down on the “gas” (haa haa not!) not only does the car take off at speeds threatening to rip the skin off my face but subconsciously I have no guilt about burning fossil fuels and spewing CO all over the guy behind me (like the diesel pick-em-up truck did on the highway the other day). My partner, Lauren, said as she got into it for the first time, “Wow! This feels like a $70,000 vehicle” (the Model 3 in the USA is priced at $40k). It is a clean and crisp design on the inside.
All over the vehicle, it is obvious that Tesla basically said to the engineers “anything you have ever thought of in the past that would be cool, let’s do it” as opposed to old thinking of other auto manufacturers where if they changed the shape of the rear lights, that that was a successful model year launch.
I feel the same with Integrel. Integrel is a step jump in a parallel direction. For years, boat and generator manufacturers have ignored available technology and made incremental improvements. Tesla ignored the trend of the other auto manufacturers and said: “since it is possible, let’s make it happen”. They were a small startup with innovation at one point. Now, in Austin Texas, it feels like every 10th car on the road is a Tesla. Not really! But it sure feels like it. Why? Because it is possible.
Integrel began with an EU request for proposals over ten years ago to investigate how to lower carbon emissions in recreational vessels. Some very smart engineers got together and said, “On boats, almost always, the propulsion engine never operates at full capacity and in fact most of the time it operates mostly unloaded and thus out of its efficient fuel-burning mode. How can we take advantage of that?”
The answer was simple; use software to ask the engine in real-time, “how much power can I take from you without reducing the power you are suppling to the propeller, and how much power can I take from you so that you are operating in your most efficient fuel-burning zone?” Knowing this, the software simply excites the magnetic field in an alternator type device attached to the engine. This draws the exact calculated amount of power out of the engine in the form of electricity, while leaving the engine to not only do its propelling job BUT now to operate more efficiently. The result? A happy engine, and oodles of electricity. A micro-second later the process repeats.
So how much energy does Integrel create? For a typical 40 hp diesel engine, on a 40 ft sailboat, Integrel generates about 9 kW at 1800 rpm, 6 kW at 1200 rpm and 4 kW at 800 RPM. This is opposed to a regular alternator generating 1kW at best at 1500 RPM and nothing at lower RPM. Even so, as a regular alternator heats up under ideal conditions it puts out even less – sometimes only 500w. Why is this? Well in a car alternator you just don’t need much electricity storage. Just enough to start the car again next time. So there was never any thought around making it more efficient.
So why the heck put a car alternator on a boat? Well – same as above – old thinking! All you have to do is feed some smart engineers lots of coke and lock them in a dark room and give them a basically unlimited budget (and slide a pizza under the door every 6 hours). And that is what Triskel Marine in Hayle, U.K did – ten years ago. Triskel Marine, now renamed and rebranded to Integrel Solutions is the inventor of the Integrel Generator.
For boats, the same old type of thinking provided a rudimentary solution for the available energy problem by putting a smaller version of a diesel spewing hospital power-outage type generator on a boat to create remote electricity. And for years this has been the solution.
Now, with the fundamental understanding of Lithium-Ion battery technology and plenty of safety engineering around it, we can take all the massive amounts of energy that Integrel creates and store it. Now when you want to do anything on a boat like run air conditioning all night, you don’t turn on that inefficient hospital generator and run it all night, you simply draw off the almost free energy you created while you were running the propulsion engine raising the sails and motoring out of the harbor the day before.
And here is an example of the ridiculousness of old technology applications; once in the BVI on a large catamaran sailboat, I wanted a cup of coffee. There was a 110 v coffee maker on board. I fired up the generator to get the 110v, turned on the coffee pot, made my coffee and then turned off the generator. Come-On!!! Really! Sorry about that Mr. fish!
Every day, worldwide, yacht charterers turn on their propulsion engines for 4 hours every day in harbors, marinas, and beautiful bays to charge their batteries off of their engine alternators for 4 hours. The math works like this; a 40 hp engine is a 30 kW engine, an alternator generates 1 kW of electricity at best at 1500 RPM (that’s 29 wasted btw). A typical boat uses about 4kW.hrs of energy each day in normal operations running the fridge, chart plotter, charging devices, powering the autopilot, electric flush heads, etc. Running the 40 hp engine generating 4 kW for 4 hours equals 4 kW.hrs of energy. Since Integrel easily generates at 8 kW, ½ an hour of running can create enough energy for the entire day.
With Integrel there is no managing switches or breakers. The whole Integrel system is solid state meaning that it just works – power automatically comes from the batteries through the inverters when needed and there is plenty of energy. The engineers even did this; they display how much energy is left in the batteries but converted that to time. i.e. how much time left at the current rate of discharge before you need to start your propulsion engine? Or at the current rate of charge, how much time is left to full charge?
All in all, for me the Integrel experience is much the same as a Tesla experience. It just works because it is now possible. Thanks to all you engineers out there (and scientists)!
The Integrel on-engine generator runs at a cost of $US12,995. The final cost of a fully Integrel system depends vastly on the amount of Lithium-Ion storage capacity you need. Fortunately, in new and out of the box thinking style, our engineers have designed a very cool personalized online energy storage calculator and thus an associated system cost calculator taking into account factors such as your personal boat size and type, your typical water and air temperature (for air conditioning sizing), and your typical daily energy consumption.
Finally, I say this. If you’re thinking about getting a car, it’s obvious for a number of reasons including being environmentally responsible to just get a Tesla or an electric vehicle (there are lots of new brands coming to the market nowadays). If you’ve got a boat, get an Integrel on board. Imagine quiet air conditioning, never again a warm fridge, never again apologizing to the fish, never again having to listen to the drone of an engine popping and spluttering in a gorgeous serene bay, endless amounts of ice from your now onboard ice maker, and coffee and a hairdryer anytime you want it.
For more information on Integrel, visit our home page: www.integrelsolutions.com