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Thread: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

  1. #1
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    I thought I would share my experience converting my 1936 Richardson Little Giant cabin cruiser from a gas engine to an electric motor. To set the stage a little bit, I bought the Little Giant (LG) in Ithaca, NY and brought it down to Atlanta, GA about 4 years ago. I keep the boat in a slip on a medium sized lake that is about 40 miles long. The lake has no waves, wind or current to speak of so it makes a good environment for an electric boat.

    The boat was fully restored about 15 years ago and is in great condition. It had a ~1939 4 cylinder Gray Marine Phantom 4-75hp engine. The engine ran pretty well and never let me down. My only complaint about the Gray Marine was that it was LOUD. Even with a new muffler and lot of Acoustiblok, at my preferred 4 knot cruise speed you couldn't hold a conversation with a fellow passenger without shouting. So given the favourable conditions on my lake, I decided to go 100% electric. I have to give credit to my brother for the idea. He has a 1939 Matthews Stock cruiser (with 2 six cylinder gas engines) so he is a fellow antique boater.

    I spent about 2 years planning this project and in the end it took about 3 months working weekends and nights after work. I am lucky in that I work for a machinery engineering company and I had access to a machine shop and mechanical & electrical experts to help me through the process. The Production Manager, who is a good friend, donated both his time and a parking spot in front of his house for me to work on the project.

    Electric Motor Setup:
    Electric Yacht (EY) QuietTorque 10.0 Kit
    8 - 400 amp/hr LifeLine 6 volt batteries (supplied by EY)
    QuickCharge battery charger (supplied by EY)
    Sevcon 48 volt to 12 volt converter (supplied by EY)


    Here is the project in pictures:

    The LG arriving at my production shop for the engine removal:



    The LG:



    The forklift boom extended in to pick the engine:



    The engine:



    The engine on its way out with the help of one of my co-workers:



    It was a very tight fit to remove the engine:

  2. #2
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 2

    The engine out:



    A few shots of 15 years of bilge crud:




    Last edited by mtvector; 03-20-2015 at 01:00 PM. Reason: Fixing title

  3. #3
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 3

    Once the engine was out we started dry fitting the motor. The EY standard mounts weren't quite wide enough. EY offered to supply wider ones free of charge, but because I had a machine shop at my disposal, we just fabricated custom ones.







    While we the mounts were being fabricatedated and we were waiting for the PSS seal, etc. to arrive, we started what turned out to be the hardest part of the project began - scrubbing the bilge!:



  4. #4
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 4

    Once we had all the parts we started the motor mounting process and shaft alignment. This went pretty smoothly:





    Two of my friends (machinery technician and machinist respectively) discussing the mounting bracket design:



    Old stuffing box and new PSS shaft seal:





    The final alignment process. Yet another friend doing upside down head-rush work:
    Last edited by mtvector; 03-20-2015 at 01:04 PM. Reason: Fix title

  5. #5
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 5

    Motor mounted and connected to shaft:



    EY says the longest/hardest part of the actual propulsion system install is typically the batteries and they were right. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to get the 8 batteries in the boat and keep the CG and weight distribution as close to the original gas setup as possible. We built exact wooden mockups of the batteries to helps us with the process. My wife is very good with spacial relations and figuring things like this out so she was quickly brought into the process:







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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 6

    Next up was designing and fabricating the battery mounting trays/plates. It was a little bit of trial and error given nothing is exactly square on the boat. iPhone shown for size reference:





  7. #7
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 7

    While we were waiting for the final version of the battery trays to be made, another friend who is an avid woodworker helped me install the throttle handle:







    The batteries arriving on a pallet:



    We enlisted the help of my friend's two sons to help lift the batteries into the boat. With four of us the process was pretty simple:

  8. #8
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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 8

    The batteries initially placed:





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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 9

    Then the wiring began. I went with 2/0 cable. The process was pretty simple with EY's kit:









    QuickCharge mounted:



    The first test run of the motor. It was pretty wild to be able to run the "motor" without being in the water:

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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 10

    Everything is fully functional for testing in this picture, but I still had more work to do on cleaning up the wiring runs.



    With the boat out of the water I took the opportunity to replace the finicky depth sounder setup:



    With the boat out of the water for 3 months, the hull really shrunk. Here is a photo from inside the hull. I could clearly see the driveway below:



    Since there is no lift or sling slip on my lake, my only option is to float the boat over the trailer. This requires a day or two hanging out on the boat ramp so we decided to pre-soak the hull to shorten that process. We used 5 sprinklers running off a irrigation timer. It worked great. The boat didn't appear to take on any water when we launched it.

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    Default 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 11

    Launch day. I was assisted by my wife and some friends. It was late December and you can see the lake was very low:







    First cruise back to the slip was trouble free:







    In Conclusion:
    The end result is pretty awesome. The boat is now a dream to dock (well as much of a dream as a single shaft boat can be). The instant torque makes the boat much more maneuverable and it is no longer a test of coordination to manage the separate rudder, throttle level and transmission handle. As of now I've lost about 1 knot off my top end, but we are still playing with the belt drive ratios and the prop (currently the one from the gas engine setup). But even if that knot is forever lost, the 20 decibel reduction in engine noise is worth it 10 times over. I can now hold a normal level conversion at any any speed. I haven't put the cruise range to the test yet as I've been on the road for work ever since I've got the boat back in the water. But the estimates and control panel readouts are pointing to about 35 nautical miles on a charge at my preferred 4 knot cruise speed. Of course that could be supplemented with a generator, but I doubt I will ever have to go that route given how we use the boat.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    How are you feeding water to the PSS? Is the electric motor watercooled?

    (that is a sweetie of a boat!)
    A boatless inlander, searching for the meaning of life-aground.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Figment,

    The motor is air cooled. It has a cooling fan on the aft end. The PSS is vented with a tube to a spot a few feet above the waterline. No water supply is necessary other than the water coming in via the stern tube.

    Thanks for the compliment on the boat.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Very nice boat and great retrofit!

    What is your time to recharge?

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Breakaway,

    It is a 25 amp/hr charger so at full discharge (about 80% of capacity) it would be about 12 hours.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    A very nice boat and a great conversion job! An electric boat is drifting around in my brain right now. Can you tell us the total weight of motor and batteries and , if you don't mind, the cost of the conversion?
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Nice job with the conversion and build documentation. I too see some type of electric boat in my future. Enjoy, and please post back after you have used it a while with some updates.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Nice boat and work, you all seriously know what your doing!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Very impressive work and lovely boat guys!

    Thank you for posting this .

  20. #20
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Very nice all around. Where's that envy icon?
    -Dave

  21. #21
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Great job and a lovely boat! I think you have the perfect situation for an electric conversion there. Well done.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Nice job and pretty boat. Is that Allatoona?

  23. #23
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Pretty boat and a very nice, clean install. I am guessing Alatoona as well given the overpass in the pic. Nice to see another local forumite.
    Fight Entropy, build a wooden boat!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Awesome Job, That cabin top is screaming for some well framed solar ( so as to not mess up the lines of the boat) to increase range or recharge during days away from the slip.The flexible ones are very thin and lite weight.I am using 6 x 100 watt on my dinghy they weigh less than 40 lbs. Great Job...

  25. #25
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    No kidding! What a nice job and a fitting candidate! Even the old mill looks clean.
    Usually I go snobby with electric, but your lake situation and cool old boat.... just perfect!
    bruce

  26. #26
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    That boat is in remarkable condition for it's age! Very interesting project and a nice write-up -- thanks for posting it.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    I would just love to have somebody commission a mahogany runabout build that would be 100% electric power. I think I could use the same set up as you.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Hi Rich,

    The motor weighs 55 lbs. The batteries are another 120 lbs each. My goal was to replace the approximately 900 lbs of engine, running gear and fuel I was removing from the boat to keep the CG, etc the same. In the end I got within about 50 lbs. The price EY 10.0 motor is $5,500 (http://www.electricyacht.com/product...torque-10-0-2/). The total cost of the batteries comes down to how much range you want. Send me a PM if you want more details on the total budget. The one thing I didn't factor in was the unbelievable number of trips I made to the hardware store in the course of the project.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    It is Allatoona. Good eye!

  30. #30
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by nedL View Post
    Great job and a lovely boat! I think you have the perfect situation for an electric conversion there. Well done.
    Thanks nedL. Electric doesn't work well everywhere, but this is a good fit.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by moTthediesel View Post
    That boat is in remarkable condition for it's age! Very interesting project and a nice write-up -- thanks for posting it.
    moTthediesel,

    Thanks for the kinds words. The boat was restored by Cayuga Wooden Boat Works in Ithaca, NY between 1998-2000. I bought it after it was restored and the previous owner had cruised for about 10 years on the Fingerlakes and Erie Canal.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Raybrokw View Post
    Awesome Job, That cabin top is screaming for some well framed solar ( so as to not mess up the lines of the boat) to increase range or recharge during days away from the slip.The flexible ones are very thin and lite weight.I am using 6 x 100 watt on my dinghy they weigh less than 40 lbs. Great Job...
    Raybrokw,

    I'm right with you on the solar. I plan on installing a panel on the cockpit roof between the handrails. I just need to save up a bit more money first!

  33. #33
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Thanks for posting this. I Checked out electric yachts website. I see they make a saildrive. That might be perfect for my old Knickerbocker One Design. I want to convert her over to an inboard when I take her to the coast.
    Fight Entropy, build a wooden boat!

  34. #34
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    It would be cool to see a video with sound if you have the means to do it.
    With the right insulation it should be very quiet, no?

  35. #35
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    Default Re: 1936 Richardson Little Giant Electric Conversion Part 1

    Very exciting to see a Richardson in such great shape. Great pictures of the install as well. Any chance I can get you to post more pictures of the interior of the forward cabin? Looks like it is nicely finished, and I could use the inspiration! Thanks for posting!

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