What’s old is new again: Vintage tug goes all-electric

Written by Marine Log Staff
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The dredge tender T4 was recently refit with an all-electric powertrain supplied by Elco Motor Yachts

JUNE 19, 2014—An 86-year-old tugboat now has a new life as an all-electric dredge tender, thanks to a recent refit with electric motors.

Originally built as a tug in 1928, the dredge tender T4 is operated by the New York State Canal Corporation to remove buoys and for other work on the Erie Canal in New York.

Prior to the refit, propulsion power for the dredge tender was a 30-year-old diesel engine. The vessel is now fitted with a pair of EP-10000 electric motors manufactured by Elco Motor Yachts, LLC, Athens, NY. Each motor has the equivalency of about a 100 hp diesel engine. The vessel is powered by 36 Absorbed Glass Mat batteries, an advanced lead-acid technology, which are recharged by plugging into shore power, according to a spokesman for Elco Motor Yachts.

The benefits of the all-electric system are that it eliminates exhaust emissions and the potential for fuel spills, while lowering maintenance costs and reducing noise.

The refit is the result of a partnership between the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

“By partnering with the private sector, New York State is transforming an 86-year-old tug boat into a cleaner, greener and more modern zero-emission vehicle,” Governor Cuomo said. “Projects like this demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment and show how this continued dedication is laying the groundwork for a clean energy economy of tomorrow.”

 “We will continue working to incorporate greener technologies into our operations while encouraging New Yorkers to follow suit,” says Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Executive Director Thomas J. Madison.  “This will not only allow us to help make New York a cleaner place, but also grow the green jobs industry through these types of public-private partnerships.”

The NYSCC partnered with New West Technologies, LLC (New West), an engineering consulting firm from Yorkville, NY, to evaluate and help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its work boat fleet.  The initial feasibility study completed through this partnership illustrated the lifecycle cost savings and considerable environmental improvements of the new power train in comparison to the Canal Corporation’s current fleet.

“New West Technologies is proud to partner with the New York State Canal Corporation to evaluate the electric boat’s performance and to help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its work boat fleet,” said Russell Owens, P.E. of New West Technologies. “The initial Phase 1 feasibility study validated the energy, economic, and environmental benefits of electric propulsion for Canal Corporation’s work boats. As we continue in the Phase 2 field demonstration, we look forward to continuing to work with Canal Corporation, Elco Motor Yachts, and our partners at the State to evaluate the tender’s operational and maintenance data to support the goal of transitioning the long-term sustainability of New York’s fleet.”

Additionally, New West will collect real-world data from both the all-electric boat and a standard diesel boat to analyze the real-world performance benefits for the Canal Corporation and other entities considering the use of all-electric or hybrid-electric marine powertrains.

The electric powertrain was developed and manufactured by Elco Motor Yachts. Elco developed the system that tightly adapts two electric motors into a robust powertrain configuration that could be applied to the dredge tender. The electric powertrain is particularly impressive with its modular design. This design allows it to be easily configured for other dredge tender boats with more or less electric motor power and more or less battery capacity, as needed.

“Elco is proud to be a partner in this demonstration of electric propulsion on the historic Erie Canal,” said Elco President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Lamando. “Elco’s own history dates back to 1893 when its first electric boats shuttled more than one million passengers to and from the Chicago World’s Fair. Today, we are reinforcing our industry-leading position by propelling Tender 4 in an environmentally sustainable way using energy from New York’s electric grid. With Elco’s twin EP-10000 motors, the tender will now silently work with zero exhaust emissions and without contributing to water pollution. Elco electric propulsion systems also help save money in fuel and maintenance costs – a win for the Erie canal system waters, workers and taxpayers.”

The funding for the development of the all-electric dredge tender was made possible through the Integrating Mobility Strategies for a Sustainable Multi-Modal Transportation Network Program Opportunity Notice, a partnership between NYSERDA and DOT, to demonstrate underutilized technologies and approaches that improve the energy efficiency and emissions production in New York’s transportation and freight delivery system.

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