What prompted VETUS to explore electric power for the marine segment when it did and why did that become a focus?
“While emission reduction was definitely a factor in wanting to explore the electric propulsion possibilities it was “comfort on board” that actually drove us forward. Complete silence in a motorized boat was our goal.”
What were the main challenges that existed for the development and adoption of marine electric propulsion in 2000 that the development of the EP2200 addressed and overcame? Was it a revolutionary introduction or more an evolution of existing technology? What was most notable about it?
“Please note that this development of over 20 years ago happened well before the big leap in electrification in automotive, and we all know (by now) what challenges the market faced (and still faces). Boats have the same difficulties…… but there is more of them.
To really understand the importance of energy management in electric movement you must realize that one liter of diesel contains more than fifty times the amount of energy that even the best lithium battery can contain. This is the reason that energy management is a major issue in modern electric cars, but in comparison to recreational marine there are some very substantial differences that make energy management in boats even more challenging.
Boats cannot harness kinetic energy from braking, while cars can. The hull speed factor in displacement boats has a huge impact on consumption and is absent in cars. Water induced drag is exponentially bigger than air resistance for cars. Car production can be better optimized for efficiency due to the maturity and size / scale of the industry.”
Did we have any competition at that time? How successful were they—and did they do anything better than VETUS did at the time? It was 20 years ago; can you describe what it meant for our industry at the time?
“Taking credit for ’inventing‘ electric propulsion is something we would never do. The first electric boats were (same as cars) already operational in the late 1800’s. But we do pride ourselves at VETUS for developing products that are clever, fit for purpose and that bring something new to the market. Our EP2200 electric and hybrid installations were ahead of their time, and an added value for those willing to adopt the ’new‘ technology.” Innovation is in our company DNA and that’s why we adopt the tagline “Creator of Boat Systems” in our logo.
What other industries were doing similar or parallel R&D? Did we borrow from them or contribute to them or both?
“Well, it was around the same time Toyota launched their first version of the Prius. A car that will definitely trigger a variety of responses. But revolutionary would be a correct phrase to use.
The marine market is, in comparison to automotive, smaller, more scattered and in many ways more conservative. Borrowing technology from adjacent markets is a good way for the marine market to develop.”
The few mentions of the EP2200 via internet searches characterize VETUS as being a “pioneer” in this field. Can you describe what that meant for us at the time and how that sets us apart now?
“Now everybody has an opinion on electric cars (love ‘em or hate ‘em) but 20 years ago it wasn’t even a topic. One of the reasons it might have felt like pioneering is that it wasn’t problem driven. What I mean is that there was no broad regulation pushing for emission free boating, no tax benefits in comparison to combustion engines…… it was just a thought that a motorized boat with the silence of a sailboat would be a great experience.
The most important lesson we learned was that we noticed that in displacement (also combustion engine) boats there is a general waste of energy that is not noticed because of the lack of detailed real time information and consequential visualization! Captains worldwide are wasting energy without knowing. Mostly because of the abundance of energy available this happens even without direct consequences… except for the environment of course! We focused heavily on this while creating our new E-DRIVES, and with that we are ahead of the competition.” The E- DRIVE packages can integrate with NMEA2000 solutions. Unique to VETUS, this connectivity means- the user has crucial visibility of remaining battery charge and runtime when installing the VETUS battery monitoring shunt. The shunt takes the damping effect of the big battery pack out of the mix so that the multifunction display can provide a much more accurate idea of remaining battery percentage charge and therefore usable range.
Would you characterize our R&D as being step-by-step focused or do we focus on the “next big thing” or is there a more nuanced driver? What is our R&D “legacy” from your perspective?
“At VETUS we do both…. We have over sixteen product groups within VETUS and are generally seen as broad in our product line. I feel we have proven that you can be broad in your line-up, while maintaining the expertise of a specialist. We build and expand our program in a step-by-step fashion, but occasionally our team of 25+ engineers create something “out of the box”.
There are many examples of those periodic “next big thing” products: Bow thrusters in 1980, we launched the first stern and even jet driven thrusters. We are undoubtedly the wet exhaust experts in recreational marine, but we also pioneered with our design of electronic motor controls. In more recent times we pioneered joystick integrated docking, and we have set the new standard with our proportional BOW PRO thrusters and E-DRIVE motors.”
How does the story of EP2200 best illustrate our current “VETUS design lab” directions of effort?
“Maybe I’m biased, but I can only see it as a compliment. Was the EP2200 a 100% success story… maybe not, but it gave us great insights in what will be a growing part of leisure marine. And most importantly, it showed once again that we don’t just jump on the bandwagon and try to profit from the latest market trend, we actually know boating, we love boating and with that…. We set the trend.
Technology driven user centered development leading to innovative new products.”
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