While hybrid cars are now commonplace on our roads, development of hybrid boats has been lagging behind – until now.

A collaborative partnership between Ampcontrol, University of Newcastle and Steber International has conducted a series of highly successful bench and on-water trials of a hybrid diesel/electric boat prototype.

Steber International, General Manager, Alan Steber said: “this exciting R&D project has unlimited potential across the entire marine landscape and as a next step we plan to demonstrate the versatility and strengths of the vessel to prospective end users”.

“Potential applications include marine park boats, police boats, recreational and leisure boats, harbour foreshore inspection boats, tourist boats, yacht club tenders, security vessels to name a few.

“Working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) we will establish the additional protocols required for commercial vessel registration and use.

“The project has the potential to boost jobs in regional NSW and we encourage all levels of government to support the next phases of ongoing R&D, marketing and commercialisation”. Mr Steber said.

The hybrid diesel/electric propulsion system allows a boat to be power efficient, quiet and be significantly more emission friendly without suffering any loss of cruising range,

The application of batteries and an electric motor facilitates a reduction in the size of the diesel  engines required, while maintaining the same, or higher, power ratings for the vessel.

When operating in electric motor mode, noise, vibration and emissions are reduced. This  mode would be ideal for activities requiring stealth such as police operations and maritime inspections or other applications requiring minimum noise disturbance and constant idle time,

The electric motor mode would be a preferred use in enclosed harbours or marine reserves where minimal water and airborne diesel pollutants would be desirable,

Significant  operational cost savings are also available due to the minimal cost associated with shore-based battery charging relative to diesel-only operations.

Mr Steber added: “With folding propeller technology, an operational vessel may have twin Diesel engines, as is currently in use, with a third additional electric motor producing efficient manoeuvring with both Diesel engines shut down.

“When high speed is required, the twin diesels can be “kicked in” and the electric motor shut down, allowing the folding propeller to eliminate drag.

“If a 240v generator is installed on board for other applications such as air-conditioning for the crew, computers, etc, this power can offer further support to the battery bank via “charging on the run” while the main thirsty twin engines are shut down.

“Recently Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced that Australia will be joining other nations in reducing carbon emissions to an unprecedented level by 2050/60.

“He also has been quoted as saying Australia will accelerate research and deployment of low-emission technologies.

“A Steber 12 tonne Maritime/Police boat could operate in any harbour at three-four knots under electric power for several hours, or if the generator is utilised, for an indefinite period.

“Shore power fast charging between operating intervals will maintain efficiency.

“It is expected that fuel savings will pay for the electrical upgrade within two years, depending on the vessel’s operating hours. Further savings will be achieved with the initial build program by reducing the fuel tank size as well as other variables.

“We just need the next round of government tenders to be open to this technology, thereby employing more of our country kids.

“Ampcontrol and the University of Newcastle have added their considerable skills making this a true collaborative effort on all levels.

“Ampcontrol specialises in electrical engineering and control systems, having over 50 years experience in delivering integrated electrical and electronic solutions, responding to challenges with agility and ingenuity.

“The University of Newcastle have come to the party with research input right down to the granular level and testing facilities, helping to ensure the project meets the latest Australian safety standards”, Mr Steber concluded.

The official launch of the 22ft test rig took place on the Manning River in front of a crowd of interested locals, including Member for Myall Lakes, Mr Steve Bromhead,

Initial trials with one person on board attained 20 knots and with seven people on board the speed was 18 knots. With  9.5kva gen set installed and carrying a full compliment of equipment and crew a speed of 15 knots was achieved.

Photo: At speed on the Manning River.