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The most visible indication that Sparks is a solar electric
hybrid boat comes from the roof mounted solar panels but
the handrails on the sides and the sweep of the roof make
them barely noticeable.
hybrid propulsion systems and about this time he also talked to
Jonathan Killing, Steve Killing’s son. Together they worked to
create a boat where the operator would be aware of and take
responsibility for his own energy use.
Steve Killing has been involved in virtually all of the Bear
Mountain hull designs and when it came to the Bear Mountain
30 Hybrid Electric Launch, Ted and Joan again turned to Steve.
“Steve’s designs always perform better than intended and
look better than they need to,” states Ted. “We have worked
together on many projects and I think we have similar tastes in
what a boat should look like. He outdid himself on Sparks; I
have never gotten tired of looking at her.”
After examining the alternatives, they settled on an electric
boat that would be powered by an electric motor drawing on
batteries fed by a combination of solar, diesel generator and
shore power. Jonathan worked with Steve to optimize hull
design and the propulsion system. Designing and building
Sparks was meant to be a science project in every respect.
While the onboard computer is useful for graphically monitor-
ing all systems, its main purpose is to record everything that is
happening along with GPS coordinates.
Developing a database of what happens between the scientific calculations and a recreational boat in the water will help
to direct electric boating in the future.
“We wanted to go beyond the scientific calculations,”
Jonathan explained, “because we wanted to know how the systems behaved in regular day-to-day use. We chose many of our
components based on their ability to provide us with input
information about voltages, temperatures and so on. The computer takes down a large volume of information that can be
They used a Perm Motor from Germany which is a brushed
DC-type motor that is quiet, reliable and easy to maintain. In this
application, the electric motor drives directly to the prop shaft all
the time. The diesel does not clutch in or out. Instead, with a
water-cooled generator, a single cylinder diesel Fischer Panda is
designed to put out 48 V DC, not 110 V. Should the electronics
fail, the generator will provide power directly to the motor.