Many owners want dream boats, but few are as determined as Peter Weil. The Tampa, Fla.-based financial planner had been living on a sailing catamaran for years — until two years ago, when an Aquila 44 power cat pulled into a slip beside him.
“I was sitting there sweltering in my salon and these guys are up on the bridge of this power cat, enjoying themselves in the open air,” Weil told Trade Only Today. “They invited me over and it was the first time I’d ever been on a motoryacht like this, and I really enjoyed the space and comfort. I decided I was going to go with the power cat.”
Weil did due diligence across the power cat field and decided that the Aquila 44 was indeed the boat he wanted. There was one problem: After a ride on the boat, Weil decided that he didn’t want the diesel engines. “They were just too smelly,” he says.
That choice set in motion what turned out to be an almost random series of events that led Weil to hiring a company called Nova Luxe, a startup specializing in electric-hybrid propulsion, and eventually replacing the diesels with a Torqeedo electric system.
Weil decided to oversee the project himself and install the electric system at a boatyard in Annapolis. But Marc Hawxhurst, Nova Luxe Yachts president, who had coincidentally heard about Weil from a supplier, had a better plan.
“I spoke with Peter and told him he could get a more powerful 60-kW Torqeedo system that is fully integrated,” says Hawxhurst. “We met in Bermuda at a sailing event and signed the deal that he would build an electric yacht.”
After Weil took delivery of his Aquila 44, the boat was moved to a facility in Gulfport, Fla., where the diesels and fuel tank were removed, and the Torqeedo system was installed and integrated across the boat. Charlie Johnson of JTB Marine Corporation, and board member at ABYC, was hired to oversee the project.
“It was much more of a project than I ever thought it would be,” says Weil. “It took four months, five days a week, to convert the boat,” says Weil. “We removed the engines and the fuel tanks, then installed the Torqeedo engines, generators and batteries. It was truly an engineering feat to lower the 67-inch-long batteries into the 24-inch wide hole for the engine compartment.”
The BMW i3 lithium-ion battery, part of Torqeedo’s Deep Blue hybrid system, was key to its success. “Those newly developed batteries made this all possible,” says Hawxhurst, who estimates the total Torqeedo system cost about $200,000.
“These are all off-the-shelf components that we assembled to match the size of the boat and power needed,” Captain Todd Sims, director of project sales for Torqeedo USA, told Trade Only Today at a public launch of the reconverted 44-footer.
The system has twin 50kW motors that run up to 1,400 rpm, giving it a top speed of about nine knots. On its trial run, the boat ran at six knots for four hours on battery power, using 25kW per hour.
Weil also designed a new hardtop that extended out over the boat’s existing roof so it could accommodate 14 solar panels. The solar panels, says Weil, are key to keeping the boat’s batteries recharged for constant power.
The boat’s house systems, including air conditioning, could run “for days” on the different components of the Torqeedo system. “You’re not going to run out of power in a stationary position,” says Sims.
Torqeedo has done other one-off project Deep Blue system installs on other displacement motoryachts as well as five large sailing yachts, says Sims. It also installs its system as standard equipment on the Hinckley Dasher and Privilege X5.
Hawxhurst plans to work with owners and other catamaran builders like Aspen, Maine Cat, Fountaine-Pajot to make battery-powered systems standard. “I’m hoping that the Nova Luxe version of their boats can be a cross-brand,” he says. “These catamarans are very efficient with diesel and would be excellent boats with electric power. We can make electric catamarans that are better for the environment than diesels and some are superior because they can generate their own power under way, which you can’t do with a diesel.”
The owner’s favorite feature remains the solar power. “We were also able to set up a passive heat system for hot water using the solar panels,” says Weil. “I also love that we don’t have to run the generator at night in an anchorage, with just battery power to handle our needs.”
As a sailor, Weil relishes the idea that he’s “romancing electricity instead of wind and harvesting the sun.”
His diesel engines, with zero hours, are listed on eBay.