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Tesla executive outfits new Elan GT5 sailboat with Torqeedo Deep Blue Hybrid electric drive

by Tess Smallridge 14 May 14:51 PDT

Dr Charles Kuehmann is head of materials engineering for Tesla and its sister company Space X, so it's no surprise that when ordering a new cruising sailboat electromobility was a "must."

Accordingly, his new Elan GT5 43-ft sailboat has been equipped with a Torqeedo Deep Blue 25 kW electric saildrive system. The system is powered by two 10kWh Deep Blue batteries which also power the boat's AC load through a 15 kW inverter, backed up by a small diesel generator.

"Since I work for Tesla, I know the benefits of electric power," said Dr Kuehmann. "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. 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."

The new boat was shipped to the U.S. from the factory in Slovenia with a standard auxiliary diesel, which was replaced by the Deep Blue system at a boatyard in San Diego.

The combination of Elan's superior design and construction with Torqeedo's advanced Deep Blue hybrid electric technology is a perfect match, according to Dr Kuehmann.

"Elan has a very modern electrical system with a full array of sensors and remote monitoring straight from the factory. Overall, it's a very high-tech and well-thought-out boat so it was just a matter integrating the components into the Deep Blue Hybrid system so they could be powered in a cleaner, more efficient way," he said.

He's delighted with the electric saildrive's performance. "I use it when I'm in the marina where I need a lot of control. Manoeuvring 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. It's also more convenient. No more visits to the fuel dock. I show up at the dock, and the 'tank' is full," he said.

"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."

Dr Kuehmann sums it up succinctly. "Electric and hybrid propulsion for sailboats makes sense. It can be done. It works very well, and it makes spending time on the boat much more enjoyable."

"And it's the right thing to do."

Read the full interview here

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