Buying a boat involves a lot of decisions. For starters, there are decisions to make about the length and the type of hull (the body of the boat).
Then, things get more interesting when it comes to deciding on the propulsion system. What’s the desired horsepower and power source (gas or electric)? Should the motor be inboard or outboard? These are just a few of the decisions that must be made when choosing the perfect boat. This often ends in a series of compromises.
However, e-mobility makes it possible to completely rethink the maritime propulsion system and eliminate the compromises combustion engines (inboard and outboard) require.
Volta future GmbH recognized this possibility and developed a new low-profile, high-power, fully electric outboard motor that can be installed on nearly every type of boat. It sits mostly above the waterline like a traditional outboard motor but has an extremely low profile, allowing the stern (rear) of the boat to be utilized (e.g. with a bathing platform). The so-called iWOP—invisible waterline outboard power drive—combines the advantages of both an inboard and outboard engine.
Read on to learn more about Volta future’s story. But first, let’s take a quick step back to discuss the differences between inboard and outboard terminology.
If you’re not familiar with boating terminology, here’s a quick crash course. As the names suggest, an inboard motor is mounted inside the boat. An outboard motor is mounted on the transom plate (rear) and sits outside the boat. Each option comes with advantages and disadvantages.
For example, having the engine contained within the boat (inboard) means there’s less room inside the boat for riders, cargo, and batteries. However, it also means the engine doesn’t get in the way when those riders want to wakeboard, sunbathe, or fish off the back of the boat.
By contrast, the outboard motor is outside of the hull. This can mean there’s more space available for riders, cargo, and batteries. However, this configuration also means there’s a bulky exposed motor off the back of the boat that can get in the way if someone wants to enjoy watersports or sunbathing.
Like many other boaters, Volta future’s co-founder, Horst Pesendorfer, wanted space to sunbathe on the stern of his boat. However, the head of his outboard combustion engine was in the way. He’d need an inboard motor to achieve his goal of having a sunbathing platform, but he didn’t want to buy a new boat or sacrifice space inside his boat to get it. Pesendorfer also wanted to spend time with his family on the boat on Lake Traunsee in the summer months, but the lake has a driving ban on combustion engines in July and August.
Volta future GmbH co-founders Thomas Bergmair, left, and Horst Pesendorfer, right, stand with the iWOP prototype.
In 2015, Pesendorfer went on a mission to create an entirely new motor—one that was different than anything else on the market and would solve the issues he and others were experiencing.
“The idea was to create a fully electric outboard motor that was so compact and so low that it’s possible to install it outside of the hull on any boat style,” said Thomas Bergmair, Volta future co-founder and CEO.
Marine propulsion technology leader, Volta future GmbH, is based in Altmünster, Austria. Not only is their revolutionary, patented iWOP motor universal—fitting on virtually any boat—but it’s also the most powerful e-outboard of its kind (up to 300hp).
“All of our electric components, all of the power electronics are outside of the boat,” Bergmair said. “This is a huge benefit for smaller boats especially. Because all components are outside the boat, there is more room for batteries. With this solution, even small inboard boats can be electrified with a decent amount of range and power.”
An iWOP rendering.
Other companies working on electric boat engines first source most of the parts, and especially the motor’s housings, and then they fit their electrical components into those enclosures. As a result, the engine has similarities, and similar limitations, with a traditional combustion engine.
The iWOP is completely self-developed in-house. Volta future custom designed the motor housing, the electric drives, the inverter, and the parts within the housing. As a result, the motor has advanced capabilities.
“Most outboards (even fully electric systems) need to be oiled, but our motor is maintenance-free. The iWOP uses a carbon belt, eliminating the need for oil,” Bergmair explained.
When it came time for Volta future to decide what solution to use to design their concept, Bergmair says Creo Parametric was the clear choice.
“I know Creo and I’ve worked with it for years,” he said. “For me, it’s the best 3D environment you can get. There was no question about what 3D CAD to choose.”
Volta future is part of the PTC Creators Program, which provides innovative new product developers with PTC software, plus support and training. Creo and the Creators Program are making a big difference for Volta future.
“With Creo Parametric, we’re able to create one big model,” Bergmair said. “Then we make revisions to parameters in the model tree and generate whole new versions of the product.”
The iWOP prototype installed on a boat.
“Beyond Creo’s 3D modeling capabilities, we also use analysis a lot,” he continued. “Creo’s simulation capabilities—especially fluid simulation and strength simulation—helped us make new variants of our prototype quickly.”
Volta future built about 15 different versions of the iWOP in Creo. They analyzed each model without having to convert the design data into other formats and import it into other solutions. They simulated stresses and worked out any issues, all before building a single successful physical prototype.
“If we didn’t have access to Creo’s simulation capabilities, I think our prototype costs would be around five to 10 times higher,” Bergmair said. “We would have needed to build and test several physical prototypes instead of just two.”
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