World's first electric freefall lifeboat

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Dutch company Verhoef has built what is claimed to be the world’s first electric-powered freefall lifeboat, with an integrated propulsion system supplied by Torqeedo. The vessel recently passed its final drop tests.

The first of the new Verhoef aluminium 32-passenger lifeboats will be deployed on an Aker BP offshore platform in the new Valhall Flank West oil field project in Norway. The contract includes an option for similar lifeboats in the future.

Verhoef and Torqeedo engineers have developed and tested a fully integrated emission-free propulsion system consisting of a 50 kW, 80 horsepower-equivalent, Deep Blue inboard electric motor powered by three 30.5 kWh Deep Blue batteries with technology by BMW i. The rugged system is designed to withstand the heavy g forces of freefall launch and provide 30 minutes at full speed, followed by 10 additional hours at 50% of maximum speed. The electric system also includes an inverter to drive a water spray pump, which is a requirement in case the craft drives through burning oil on the water’s surface.

One of the primary motivations behind the switch to electric power is to reduce the high maintenance costs of diesel engines currently in use, according to Verhoef. Experience has shown that diesel lifeboat engines require a great deal of ongoing maintenance and repairs. Soot accumulation in the seldom-run engines can cause internal damage and affect the performance and reliability of the evacuation system. Electric propulsion also eliminates the need to transport, store and handle diesel fuel on the platform.

Verhoef estimates that the electric propulsion system will reduce operating costs by about 90–95% compared to combustion-powered lifeboats. The built-in connectivity function will enable remote monitoring of the condition of the electric system from shore. The system also comes with a nine-year battery capacity warranty.

Verhoef electric-powered freefall lifeboat recently passed its final drop tests
Photo: Verhoef

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