Jet boat pioneer unveils electric-hybrid waterjet

A new electric-hybrid waterjet propulsion system is being released by New Zealand’s HamiltonJet –  who invented the jet boat as we know it in 1954, almost 70 years ago.

The company now makes waterjets for just about every conceivable type of boat and purpose: recreational, aquaculture, fire, search and rescue, military, ferry…so this venture into electric waterjet propulsion is very noteworthy.

“Industry abuzz with talk of electrification”

electric-hybrid waterjet brochure coverHamiltonJet is obviously committed to the coming era of propulsion, with a new electric-hybrid waterjet section on their website and a downloadable brochure that starts off by saying ‘The marine industry is abuzz with talk of electrification.”

HamiltonJet CEO Ben Reed says the company has been collaborating on a large number of electric hybrid projects around the globe, becoming specialist integrators for hybrid electric technologies and leading to the design of this product, known as EHX.

“When it comes to hybrid electric solutions we know one size definitely does not fit all,” he says. “That’s why we’ve created a system that’s scalable to individual vessel projects. Motors, battery capacity and components are all specifically selected based on bespoke need. It means we can ensure the very best outcome for the lowest cost.”

Electric-hybrid waterjet to be tested on retrofit

They recently acquired a 15-meter aluminum hydrofoil-assisted catamaran test boat that it is refitting with the new EHX waterjets. The boat, ‘White Morph’, was designed and built by fellow Kiwi companies Teknicraft and Q-West.

electric-hybrid waterjet will go into this catamaran - shown running with fossil fuel waterjetsThe recreational boat was originally outfitted with twin Yanmar 720 horsepower diesel engines coupled with the HJ series jets from HamlitonJet. The refit will be done by Q-West installing the latest model jets, a Danfoss electric drive system (in addition to the Yanmars) and Corvus Dolphin lithium-ion batteries.

The EHX electric-hybrid waterjet system controls the it all – batteries, electric machines and diesel engines. Testing and development with the boat will focus on how the boat runs in four modes: all-electric, diesel, diesel-generate and diesel-boost mode, which increases top speed by combining the electric machine with the diesel.

Reed says, “This major investment underpins our strategic focus on electrification, digitization and autonomy. This vessel will showcase a wide range of innovations.”

From fossil fuel Ford motor to electric hybrid

The waterjet propulsion system was invented by HamiltonJet founder Sir William Hamilton, who was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1964 citing ““Very valuable service in the field of engineering and especially in the design and construction of the jet-propelled motorboat.”

His driving goal was to invent a boat that could navigate the shallow rivers near his New Zealand farm/estate, Irishman Creek Station.

He tried a number of things, including an air screw and retractable marine propeller setup, and found success  in 1954 with a centrifugal pump and bevel gear strapped to a 3.5 metre (11 foot) plywood boat powered by a Ford 10hp engine.

There are now dozens of companies worldwide manufacturing waterjets for everything from personal watercraft to Mississippi paddle wheelers (sorry to spill the secret), but electrification has not been a focus for any of them.

Another company in Oceania – Australia’s Doen Waterjets, introduced an electric hybrid system last year, and a system coupling a 50 kW Combi electric motor with an Alamarin jetski was shown at the boating industry Metstrade show last October.

Electric jetskis now starting to appear

Last year also saw the teasing of an electric jetski from SeaDoo and the announcement of the Taiga Orca electric jetski from the Montreal company that developed the world’s first electric snowmobile. British electric marine consultant Jamie Marley also launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an electric jetski that is now backed 100% by a single funder.

One of the potentially biggest advancements in electric waterjet propulsion, though, circles back to Sir William. It was his invention that made it possible for boats to zip through the shallow waters of the Shotover River in New Zealand and the Shotover Jet adventure is now one of the country’s largest tourist attractions.

Since the ride began in 1965 its boats have been fueled by gasoline waterjets, but received a government grant last year to convert one of the jet motor from fossil fuel V8 to electric. If all goes well, the ride below will be electrifying in every sense of the word!

2 thoughts on “Jet boat pioneer unveils electric-hybrid waterjet

  • June 25, 2020 at 10:44 am

    A waterjet is the last type of drive you want for an E boat as not efficient and cuts range, increases cost, weight especially on a cat where you have the room for large props that are efficient.
    On an E boat you want the largest prop turning the slowest you can do for best range, lowest cost, good speed.

    • July 25, 2020 at 10:13 pm

      True enough, but it is not quite that simple. What if your vessels operate in a marine park in shallow water. Morton Bay vehicle ferries for example. Large diameter props only work in relatively deep water. Then there is a question of maneuverability. For a vessel making dozens of landings a day with cross winds and tidal streams to contend with, jets would be the preferred option IMHO. Cost is a business model issue, not a idealistic best efficiency problem.


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