Overall, patrol and rescue vessels have been relatively slow on the uptake of electric propulsion, which is understandable. Unlike ferries on fixed coastal routes, patrol boats need the guarantee of a certain level of speed and range, especially when undertaking surveillance, interception and casualty recovery missions that take them far from shore, necessitating capabilities that current e-propulsion systems cannot always provide.
However, this doesn’t rule out electrification of patrol boats altogether. For example, Washingtonian shipbuilder SAFE Boats International is collaborating with Vita Power to put an all-electric patrol craft on the water within the next 12 months. The proposed solution would adapt SAFE Boats’ established 23’ Center Console design for use with Vita Power’s V300 electric motor (rated 300hp, or 224kW) and battery package. This modified boat, dubbed the 223e, would measure 7m x 2.6m and feature a V-shaped hull and 25° deadrise, for optimal stability.
There is an element of compromise: the 223e’s primary focus is on range, making the boat better suited to responders operating at low speeds for longer hours, such as harbour masters and the teams responsible for lake patrols – or, indeed, anybody operating in sensitive waters where gruelling offshore work and constant pursuits are unnecessary. SAFE Boats explains: “Performance calculations with the 300hp electric motor predict the 223e will maintain an operational battery life of 10 hours at 5knots, and one hour at cruise speed.” However, the boat will be able to move fast enough when the crew needs it to, with the capability to attain a sprint speed of 34knots.
Vita Power’s sister company is Aqua superPower, producer of fast chargers for battery-powered boats (see, for example, Ship & Boat International September/October 2022, page 13). SAFE Boats and Vita Power have calculated that, when using an Aqua superPower charger, the 223e should be able to recharge its batteries within one hour, and possibly even sooner. “Compared to an outboard-powered engine, the 223e is expected to save thousands in annual fuel and maintenance costs,” SAFE Boats predicts, adding that the reduced noise signature will also benefit the crew in conducting discreet surveillance work without alerting targets – and while protecting sensitive ecosystems from the effects of underwater radiated noise. The 223e is now available for orders, and deliveries of the first units are scheduled for late 2024.