Tesla exec electrifies his sailboat with Torqeedo hybrid drive

A Tesla boat? Not yet, but marine electric drive maker Torqeedo has won a Tesla exec as a customer.

Dr. Charles Kuehmann is Head of Materials Engineering for Tesla and its sister company Space X. He recently bought a new Elan GT5 43-foot sailboat, and had it fitted with a Torqeedo Deep Blue 25 kW electric saildrive system.

The system is powered by two 10 kWh Deep Blue batteries, which also supply the boat’s AC load through a 15 kW inverter, backed up by a small diesel generator.

“Before ordering the Elan GT5, I did a lot of research into the state of the technology and high-power electric drives available in the marine market,” said Dr. Kuehmann. “I was convinced that it was not only possible, but that converting to electric could bring a lot of advantages. I wanted to prove it.”

As are most vehicle owners who go electric, Dr. Kuehmann is quite happy with the electric powertrain’s performance.  “I use it when I’m in the marina, where I need a lot of control. Maneuvering the boat with electric is so much smoother than a diesel. The instant torque and immediate power delivery make the boat very easy to handle.”

“It’s not just about sustainability,” the good doctor continues. “It’s also more convenient. No more visits to the fuel dock. I show up at the dock, and the ‘tank’ is full. Now that I’m cruising and doing overnights, I’ve found I have more power available on the boat than I do when I’m plugged in at the dock. I can run the air conditioner and all the electrical appliances on the boat without ever worrying that I’ll run out of power. The generator runs a half-hour or an hour per day, and I can schedule it.”

“Electric and hybrid propulsion for sailboats makes sense,” concludes Dr. Kuehmann. “It works very well, and it makes spending time on the boat much more enjoyable.”

Source: Torqeedo


    The idea of electric motor sailboats is really interesting to me because, as Dr. K. points out, there are actually a lot of advantages to such a design. Torque and control when docking, huge space and weight savings, etc. all make an electric motor and battery supply superior to a diesel engine and fuel tank.

    There are some young live-aboard sailors (Sailing Uma on YouTube) who have built a DIY electric propulsion system and have logged thousands of miles including ocean crossings under their all-electric hull.

    • Mark DeDionisio

      The gentleman STILL needs a tank of diesel and a generator. Today, there’s no way around it. Last weekend, we took our 40 footer from Oriental, NC, down the ICW to Beaufort, NC. A distance of about 20 miles, each way. The wind was on the nose both ways and we motored. There was no opportunity for sailing. We anchored, so there was no battery charging, aside from solar. If we only had an electric motor we would have had to stay home. Dr. K could’ve made the trip, running his diesel genset to keep charging the batteries. The Uma kids HAVE to sail, probably more than 95% of the time. I know they’re now looking at a system of re-generation, but physics will dictate the actual amount of power they can create. The technology just is not there to make this work, whether it’s boats or cars. Teslas are beautiful machines, but until I can drive one cross country, without having to stop every couple hours to recharge, it will be a non-starter for me.

      • TheEducator

        You might as well have stayed home. 20 miles from home, on the ICW in a straight line? Wow, you’re adventurous!

        I think a pontoon boat is more your speed.

        Leave the sailing and blue water to the sailors. You can drive your glorified john boat to the sand bar and back.

        • Isaac Hassoun

          My thoughts exactly. As soon as I read ICW … well, what you said

        • O. W. Timmons

          Last weekend Mark would have been putting 20 more miles between his ‘40 footer’ and Tropical Storm Arthur. Very prudent.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          Wow! What a bunch of moronic comments. Our boat has covered thousands of miles, from New England to the Virgin Islands. Thanks to this stupid lockdown, you can’t go anywhere right now. Yeah, I don’t have any fun going under power on a sailing yacht either, but if it gets me to a destination where I can enjoy myself somewhat, then so be it. And btw, there was no TS Arthur HERE last weekend.

      • Piotr Z Gdyni

        I suppose this is what sailing is about – letting the wind show you the way. I have no fun going under motor on a sailing yacht.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          Well then, stay the hell home! If I want to go somewhere, I’ll go, whether I’m sailing or not. I don’t get a big kick out of motoring, either, but if I have a destination in mind, then I’ll get there, one way or another. You know, some of these comments are really stupid, as if you folks have all the answers to how people should use their boats. I go offshore and sail to far off destinations, but other times I’m taking short jaunts from my home marina. What of it?

      • krs

        No opportunity to sail? Read up about tacking, eh?
        It’s a new technique for making do when breeze is on your nose (let’s say “on the bow” now OK?)

        • Mark DeDionisio


      • Waking Eagle

        If your goal is to get across the country quickly, then fly. If you’re worried about long trips, you should rent aTesla and try it. In my ’18 Model 3 stops are more like every 3 hours at 75 mph, every 4 hours at 60 mph. If you fly, I recommend a Cirrus SR22.

      • Frank

        I’ll suppress my impulse to jump down your throat and just say you’re not following the rapid pace of EV innovation closely enough. You can easily and comfortably drive a Tesla cross-country using their supercharger network. Leave the house with ~350-400 miles of range, plug in during your normal bathroom/meal stops, and you’re all set.

        Likewise with an electric sailboat, you don’t really need a diesel generator considering all the thin-film solar and wind/water generation options. This is literally the first handful of efforts with this kind of tech, apologies if it’s not meeting all the needs of casual “sailors” on day 1.

        Unrolling and floating 20kW of solar behind the boat, running the prop backwards under sail, setting out a couple wind turbines at anchor….there’s a million and one ways to top off this “battery tank”. That’s the beauty of going electric, it’ll continue to improve and become more compelling at an unimaginable pace.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          By all means, jump down my throat! No sense having an amicable exchange of ideas. Let me address your statements; I could drive my TDI from Denver to Omaha without stopping. I have no intention of taking some overplanned expedition where I need to stop at a specific spot for 45 minutes to an hour every three or four hours in order to recharge my car. Likewise, I’m not towing some spinning device, sapping my sailing performance in order to charge a battery bank. 20KW of solar behind the boat? That sounds amazing and ridiculously expensive. Some of these things sound wonderful, and maybe battery technology will get to a point where the masses will accept the drawbacks, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. The better question is why. Automobiles have become so clean and efficient that it seems like electrification is a solution looking for a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I have solar on my boat now, I wish I could add more, but space is limited. I might add wind, but it’s really only effective in places like The Bahamas, where it blows 20 kts. most of the time.

          • Frank

            So in the 8hr drive from Denver to Omaha, you don’t wanna take two 30 minute rest stops? You could probably make it with 30 and 15 min stops. Maybe a bite to eat and a quick pee?

            And on your boat that already has a propeller, you don’t want to have to add the ability for that same prop to spin backwards under sail to charge your battery pack for free?

            Both of those options sound far superior to dealing with, and paying for, gas or diesel and all their constant maintenance.

        • http://www.efest.ca Robert (Electricman) Weekley

          No need to “Put the Brakes On” by “Running the Prop Backwards” while under sail! Just run it in the normal direction, and capture the energy, for your batteries, if it’s a fixed prop, and not a “Low Drag Folding Propeller!”

          If it folds, that “Generation” Option is not available!

      • George

        Going against the wind going and coming sounds like poor planning; however, I wasn’t there. Mind you, with a big enough battery bank or a big enough diesel tank you can motor around the world against the wind and currents if you want to though the electric system with fewer moving parts may be more reliable.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          Look, George, I don’t plan a 20 mile trip down the creek days in advance. I go when I can go. And if I have to have a big enough diesel tank to run a big enough diesel generator, I might as well have a big enough fucking diesel engine in the first place!

          • George

            Look, Mark… 🙂

            If that big impressive diesel engine of yours was a dedicated electricity generator I expect (1) it would not need to be so big, (2) operates more efficiently being geared to a specific load, and (3) need to be run less frequently due to being just another way to feed the batteries.

            With instant maximum quiet torque being always available the entire sailing experience would be much different and safer. More and more I am thinking, the ideal sailboat is not just floating patches of canvas but also a floating bank of batteries. Fitted with an induction stove, a large bow mounted at-anchor wind generator, solar panels, water generator, and macerator [ 🙂 ] you are ready for the apocalypse my friend…perhaps some fishing lines and kelp recipes, as well.

      • Mind of John

        Or you could have an ample solar cell array. There are many monohulls and cats that have gone electric motor only and are doing fine. But there are trades, youll need lithium battery banks, and ways to gen power to those batteries. Wind power, solar, hydro can do it, also the new electric motor regen through the prop when not in use. Cool tech… Alot of room to improve.

      • William T

        You didn’t NEED to motor, you choose to. There are many who are like me and sail when the wind is I the ‘nose’ BUT bully on going electric…the silence is AMAZING

        • Mark DeDionisio

          No, I HAD to motor. The trip was twenty miles, upwind on a narrow creek. Frankly, I absolutely LOVE sailing upwind and cringe when I hear the expression “Gentlemen never sail to windward”. The point is, electric motors for boats are not a panacea. There are very specific applications and situations where they are well suited, but they’re definitely not for everyone. I’m sure they’re great for a millionaire Tesla executive. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/15ec6eab7a06002511ec8144f8a54906f17aa0a8d480c58959d6ed1350ed7d69.jpg

      • Bob Quigley

        I’m an older gentleman, well maybe not a gentleman… my thought process was similar to yours. Bought a used 40kwh leaf figuring if I was right it could be a second car for us to run around in locally. Exceeded my expectations! In addition my wife adopted the Leaf as her primary vehicle. After several months she proposed we sell our Jetta and buy a Tesla! Found a used M3 at Current Automotive in Naperville 360 miles away. They took our Jetta on trade and we headed home. The navigation was great! It had us stop in Indiana at a supercharger just off the interstate. Advised that the location had restrooms food, we used both. It recommended a 25 min charge, no need to top off the battery as it predicted we would have 15% battery left when we got home. Of course just like the Leaf we wake-up to a full ‘tank’ of electrons every morning. Since then we’ve done several trips with total mileage up to 300 miles. No super charging required. In my case the across country drive was nothing more than a self imposed mental roadblock, your experience may be different of course! BTW wife abandoned the Leaf! She’s now a certified Teslaholic

      • http://www.efest.ca Robert (Electricman) Weekley

        So, you live the “Iron Butt” Lifestyle? Congratulations! Your body thanks you for the Abuse!
        (It will collect on its debt later in life!)

      • DEADPOOL

        Well, the couple sailing Uma have circled the Caribbean, traveled the entire US eastern seaboard, and crossed the north Atlantic in Fall. They’ve done all that entirely on sail and electric motoring, supplied by a battery back fed from solar, wind and prop regen.

        Your Tesla example shows why you aren’t making serious arguments. In what possible scenario does someone need to drive non-stop crosscountry without having 45 minutes each day to stop and eat a meal while your car charges? You are basically claiming that until someone can set a new record doing the cannonball run in a Tesla you don’t think they are practical for ordinary drivers.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          I swear, you electric goons are out of your mind. 45 minutes A DAY? Who’s not making a serious argument? If I want to travel from, say, New York to Denver, that’s about a twenty-six hour trip. If I split it into two days, we’ve got 13 hours per day behind the wheel. You’re telling me that I only need to stop ONCE per day for 45 minutes to make that trip? See the problem now? that 13 hour stretch will probably require at least FOUR stops of an hour or more. Now you’ve got a 17 to 18 hour day which is unreasonable for the average person to handle. If it’s the middle of summer and you’re running the AC all day and night you’ll need more frequent stops. It’s just stupid. In my TDI I’d stop ONCE in that 13 hour stretch for fuel and food. 30 minutes, tops.

          • DEADPOOL

            Good for you man. Hope the minor convenience you gain from those saved 15 minutes a day are worth it for you.

        • Mark DeDionisio

          And yes, Uma CAN do all that. No disagreement. BUT, I live in North Carolina. If I was in, say, Hope Town, in the Abacos, and I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, I could motor north on the fuel aboard, non-stop. Sure, that’s an extreme situation, I agree, but other situations might arise. Maybe I sail from the Bahamas to Florida and now I find the forecast calls for lots of northerlies for several days. I could jump into the ICW and motor my way home. Look, there are lots of situations where electric might be right for a cruising sailor, but it’s not right for most people today.

          • DEADPOOL

            They spent time in Florida motoring up and down the ICW just fine, 30 miles a day.

            Maybe you should watch their videos before dismissing them.

          • Mark DeDionisio

            You’re making my argument for me. Thanks.

  • Bernard McLean

    Makes sense especially for a catamaran sailboat. 2 less engines to maintain. 1 diesel generator to cover electrics and supplemental charging when needed with panels charging during the day.

    • Mark DeDionisio

      Bernard, you’re making more sense than some of these commenters. On a cat you have an immense platform for solar. on a mono, not so much.

      • Bernard McLean

        and i don’t have a boat (yet! 🙂 )

  • David Rave

    Why won’t he just attach an electric motor to the boat?

  • andrew__des_moines

    Inferior to Oceanvolt. No regen

  • TheRealTachyon

    In an integrated design you could use custom batteries as part of the keel ballast. Long thin packs that slide down into hollows in the keel. No extra space taken in the boat or extra weight.