Clever coupling is key to electric craft

Germany’s first electrically powered pleasure craft has been making the news since the summer of 2017, when it first started to transport passengers on Baldeney Lake in Essen
Germany’s first electrically powered pleasure craft has been making the news since the summer of 2017, when it first started to transport passengers on Baldeney Lake in Essen (Photo: Peter Prengel- City of Essen)
The compact coupling unit - designed and manufactured by Reich  - comprises of a Arcusaflex 5.1 flange coupling, a Multi-Mont Sella 100 Claw Coupling and two electromagnetic clutches (Photo: Reich Kupplungen)
The compact coupling unit - designed and manufactured by Reich - comprises of a Arcusaflex 5.1 flange coupling, a Multi-Mont Sella 100 Claw Coupling and two electromagnetic clutches (Photo: Reich Kupplungen)
Schematic of the full system architecture (Reich Kupplungen)
Schematic of the full system architecture (Reich Kupplungen)

A vessel claimed to be Germany’s first electrically driven excursion vessel could help to point the way for the development of cleaner power sources for larger ships.

At the heart of this innovative craft is a combination of a methanol tank, fuel cell, motor and back-up diesel. Transmitting the power from the three drive types and hence key to the success of the project, is a specially developed coupling unit from Reich-Kupplungen.

The complete coupling unit consists of a Multi Mont Sella 100 claw coupling with a Arcusaflex 5.1 flange coupling and two electromagnetic clutches. The challenges faced by Reich’s engineers included delivering a switchable propulsion drive system which would allow the automated use of the three drive types: battery electric drive, pure diesel drive or combined diesel-electric drive.

To reduce the occurrence of vibrations from the engine, the motor and the drive components, flexible and highly flexible couplings, are combined with the electromagnetic clutches and integrated into a single housing to form a compact unit.

The energy required for operating the craft is generated entirely from renewable energy sources. The ethanol energy source is produced by the hydro-electric power station located at Baldeney Lake dam. Carbon dioxide for the production of the electro-bio-catalytic methanol is filtered from ambient air by means of a container. Using hydro-electric power, the enzymes are stimulated to convert water and carbon dioxide into methanol.

However, the amount of methanol produced in this way each day is not sufficient for the vessel’s usual duty cycle. Therefore, additional methanol, also manufactured in an eco-friendly manner, is sourced from Iceland. The combined total of 330 litres of methanol, sufficient to supply enough energy for 16 hours, is then used to generate electricity in the 35 kilowatt fuel cell of the vessel to power the crafts’ electrical system and the battery-powered motor.

Two batteries, with a capacity of 50-kilowatt hours each, last for four hours in total. At the end of this period they need to be recharged, either by the fuel cell – or by using an onshore charging cable. In case of an emergency, a separate diesel engine can be used to power the vessel.

With a history spanning over 70 years, Reich Kupplungen has built up unrivalled expertise in the design and manufacture of drive couplings for use across a wide range of industries and applications. Reich is always happy to assist customers with coupling or torque limiter selection process for any particular application.

By Jake Frith

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