An electric vehicle (EV) is a vehicle that uses one or more electric motors for propulsion. An electric vehicle may be powered through a collector system by electricity from off-vehicle sources, or may be self-contained with a battery, solar panels, fuel cells or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity. EVs include, but are not limited to, road and rail vehicles, surface and underwater vessels, electric aircraft and electric spacecraft.

EVs first came into existence in the mid-19th century, when electricity was among the preferred methods for motor vehicle propulsion, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time. Internal combustion engines were the dominant propulsion method for cars and trucks for about 100 years, but electric power remained commonplace in other vehicle types, such as trains and smaller vehicles of all types.

In the 21st century, EVs have seen a resurgence due to technological developments, and an increased focus on renewable energy and the potential reduction of transportation’s impact on climate change and other environmental issues. Project Drawdown describes electric vehicles as one of the 100 best contemporary solutions for addressing climate change.

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mahi two usv

Mahi Two, an uncrewed surface vessel (USV), has become what is believed to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean using only solar power.

The autonomous robotic boat left the coast of Spain in September 2021 and made landfall in Martinique, in the French Lesser Antilles, six months later, after more than 4,300 nautical miles at sea.

Project Mahi started as many success stories do — in the founder’s garage. Pieter-Jan Note assembled six friends from a variety of engineering backgrounds. They spent the next few years building, designing, and writing software. “Our first crossing attempt in 2019 capsized during an unusually heavy storm in the Bay of Biscay,” said Note. “We learned a lot from that short journey, however, and used that knowledge to build Mahi Two.”

The four-meter Mahi Two has a composite hull for strength, efficiency and durability. It is driven by a Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 pod drive which the team modified to rotate. “We learned from the previous attempts that we didn’t want a rudder,” said Note, “So we modified the drive to rotate and steer the vessel.”

The Cruise pod drive is powered by two 24V Torqeedo lithium-ion batteries which are charged by Solbian solar panels. The system powers the drive, plus the steering actuator, electronics and bilge pumps. The steering, communication, hardware integration, navigation and energy management onboard are all managed by Mahi’s self-developed USV software. The boat communicates using an onboard satellite modem, GPS and automatic identification system.

Contact lost

Mahi Two’s oceangoing adventure started off well, despite spells of bad weather. “The first few months were flawless. Other than adjusting speed to compensate for reduced solar power production, Mahi took on stormy, cloudy days at sea with no problem,” recalls Note.

In January, however, disaster struck. Mahi Two suddenly started using more power. The team began to fear that the little USV was taking on water and the bilge pumps were working hard to compensate.

Just days later, the team lost communication with Mahi Two altogether, only 700 nm from her destination. Note recalls, “We tried everything to save Mahi. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Martinique reached out to a sailing vessel that travelled near Mahi’s last known position. The competitors in a transatlantic rowing race searched as well, but it was all for nought. Mahi Two seemed lost.”

Note and the rest of the team — Bertold Van den Bergh, Julien Meert, Andreas Belderbos, Quinten Lauwers and Koen Geurts — scoured the gigabytes of data Mahi Two had sent home, looking for answers.

“Then,” said Note, “two months after we had lost communication, I received a surprise call from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Fort-de-France. Mahi had been found! She didn’t sink after all. Instead, she had completed her mission, navigating her way to the coast of Martinique all by herself.”

“What an extraordinary achievement by the team at Mahi,” commented Maurice Bajohr, vice-president of quality for Torqeedo GmbH. “The successful completion of this trans-Atlantic trek is a clear demonstration of the incredible durability and reliability of solar-electric technology for autonomous long-range missions.”

Bajohr observed that USV builders and customers are increasingly switching to solar-electric drives instead of traditional internal combustion engines to eliminate emissions and noise during data collection and navigation, and to reduce operating costs for fuel and maintenance. Torqeedo-powered electric drives are currently used on many hundreds of USVs around the world. These highly specialized boats are used by government and commercial operators for a wide range of missions such as seafloor mapping, oceanographic survey, harvesting data from underwater sensors and surveillance operations.

Part of the Project Mahi team recently started a company, MAHI (www.mahi.be), to bring maritime autonomy solutions to the market. They are developing software and hardware products that enable USVs to detect obstacles and other vessels accurately and avoid collisions according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

solarboat

An electric boat that runs virtually endlessly on solar power –  that’s the dream that’s been driving David and Alex Borton for the last 17 years. Since 2004, the father-and-son team has been working to fulfil their vision, building several custom, patented, solar-electric boats under the brand name of Solar Sal.

This summer, the two of them completed what they believe to be the first-ever solar-electric boat voyage from Bellingham, Washington, to Juneau, Alaska.

They departed on Tuesday, 25 May, in their 27-ft wooden hull solar boat Wayward Sun and made landfall at Ketchikan, Alaska, 13 June, then continued up the coast at a more leisurely pace to Glacier Bay and Juneau, concluding the voyage on 8 July.

The electric boat is powered 100 per cent by solar energy with no fossil-fuel combustion engine at all on board. “People always ask us if we have any gas or diesel back up,” said Alex Borton, “but the sun rises every day. If our batteries get too low, we just wait.”

Wayward Sun, built by Devlin Boat in Olympia, WA, is propelled by a Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 electric pod drive with six Torqeedo Power 24-3500 lithium batteries.  There is a separate 12-volt system for lights, electronics and other DC-powered systems and an inverter for occasional AC loads, like making waffles. The batteries are charged from a 1700-Watt array of solar cells on the boat’s rooftop.

Better than expected

“The solar-electric system has more than exceeded our expectations,” said Alex Borton. “During the 45-day passage from Bellingham to Glacier Bay to Juneau, we were underway for 38 days. We averaged 32 nautical miles per day at an average speed of 3.7 knots. While some days we stopped early or left late because of weather, there were only two full days we didn’t travel at all due to high winds or dense fog.

“Even on a completely overcast day this time of year, we can travel at 2-3 knots during daylight hours without drawing on our batteries at all,” Borton said. “With direct sunlight, we can do 5 knots or more all day without any battery use. Most of the trip was overcast and it rained a lot. Some days we travelled slowly because we had to; other days we travelled slowly and charged the batteries while underway.”

No limits

“Most electric boats on the market today are limited by their battery capacity, which means they have to return to shore power to charge,” explained Borton. “Until recently, solar panels and batteries were just not capable of severing the tie to shore power, so it was only functional for extending range or for partial charging. But now, thanks to advances in solar cells and Torqeedo’s efficient electric drives and high-capacity batteries, it’s possible to produce a solar boat with reasonable speeds and accommodation that can continuously cruise without ever charging from the shore. If I had more time I would keep going for another 1000 miles.”

They navigated from Bellingham to Ketchikan using the inside passage, anchoring at night since they were not permitted to go ashore in British Columbia due to Canadian Covid-19 travel restrictions. “That was no problem for us,” said Borton. “We had lots of food, a cosy cuddy for sleeping below deck. And, of course, our solar boat doesn’t need refuelling.”

“This is an important validation of state-of-the-art solar-electric boat propulsion technology, and we have enjoyed following their daily progress on their blog,” said Mary Jo Reinhart, director of OEM and retail sales, Torqeedo, Inc.

You can see the progress reports with photos and video clips from Wayward Sun’s epic voyage at squarespace.com

ev demand electric car

European consumers are increasingly turning to electric vehicles as focus turns to the industry. Several initiatives from governments are inspiring the ev demand from consumers.

According to data acquired by Finbold, the demand for new passenger battery electric (all-electric) vehicles across Europe surged 231.58% between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, from 63,422 to 210,298. The figures reflect a triple growth in demand for all-electric vehicles.

Elsewhere, demand for the hybrid electric vehicle also spiked by 213.54% to 541,162 representing the biggest growth for all new passenger vehicles in Europe. In total, the electric vehicle registration as of Q2 2021 stands at 751,460, a growth of at least three times from the Q2 2020 cumulative figure of 236,015.

During the period, plug-in hybrid vehicle demand surged 255.8%, from 66,252 to 235,730. Natural gas vehicles recorded demand of 41.84% from 9,515 to 13,497.

Furthermore, during the first half of 2021, battery electric vehicles recorded a share of 6.7% under new passenger cars by fuel type in the region. Hybrid electric vehicles had a share of 18.9%, while plug-in hybrids stood at 8.3%. Petrol accounted for the highest share at 42%, followed by diesel at 21.7%. Natural gas had a share of 0.5%.

Government incentives spurs EV demand

The report explains how different government policies contributed to the surge in demand for electric vehicles in Europe. According to the research report:

“For instance, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, most governments across the region focused their stimulus packages on companies that are operating in line with fighting climate change. Notably, a big part of the support focused on incentives for consumers to buy EVs, creating a surge in demand.”

Additionally, the demand emerged at a period, the electric vehicle industry suffered a chip shortage due to supply chain constraints due to the pandemic. However, the full impact will manifest later this year.

Read the full story with statistics here.