First introduced in 2016 and after a year of sea trials in Japan, the new Yamaha electric boat motor and system – the Harmo – has made its European debut at the Salone Nautica in Genoa, Italy.
About this time last year, Plugboats wrote about Yamaha starting water trials of the motor and accompanying steering system on the historic Otaru Canal tourist attraction in Hokkaido, Japan. But the history of the motor goes much further back, to 2016, when it was shown at the METSTRADE trade fair. Even at that time Yachting News wrote “The prototype arrives after over a year of planning and trials and the first samples have been tested on some cruiser boats along Dutch channels.”
The final version is surprisingly close to what was shown 5 years ago and puts into action the benefits of the Harmo. Apart from all of the quietness and zero emissions of any electric boat motor, the Harmo is a rim motor that can rotate 140 degrees for remarkable manoeuvring abilities and tilts up on a 74-degree angle when out of the motor but has a sleek ultra-low profile when in operation.
At the Genoa Show it has been exhibited on the equally sleek Respiro boat (6.9m / 22′) – shown here – from Cantiere Venmar of Venice. We will write about Respiro (‘Breath’ in English) at a later date to give the elegant craft its full due.
Yamaha electric boat motor, remote control box, joystick
From the outset the Harmo was designed as more than a standalone electric motor, and the entire package of what Yamaha refers to as its “next-generation boat-maneuvering system platform” provides the full capabilities and benefits.
That package consists of the propulsion unit powered by an electric motor, a remote control box, and a joystick. (Check out the video at the bottom of the page)
The electric motor is a rim motor, named because the propeller blades are attached to an outer rim rather than a central hub. In the Yamaha design the rim is the motor itself, with the stator (stationary part) on the outside and the rotor (rotating part) inside it. The electric current runs through the the coils of the stator and the inner rotor has permanent magnets. The outer ring also helps channel the flow of the water for propulsion.
Electric rim motors have been used as bow thrusters in larger boats for many years to assist in tight quarters docking, but are only now gaining popularity as stern mounted outboards on smaller boats. The RS Electric Pulse 63 RIB introduced in May uses a rim motor by RAD Propulsion, and the Old Nick canalboat we wrote about in January uses a VETUS rim more traditionally as a steering thruster.
Yamaha has utilized some of the bow thruster philosophy with the Harmo’s ability to swivel 140 degrees. The rim propulsion unit and shaft holding the connecting cables move independently from the unit’s top – the visible part above water. Controlling it with the intuitive feel of the Helm Master EX joystick, a pilot can a boat rotate it within its length and with two motors can make a boat move completely laterally.
The 55 kilogram/102 lb Harmo is powered by a 48 V battery and the rim configuration and technology of the 3.7 kiloWatt motor provides static thrust of 225 pounds (102kg) – about the same as a 9.9 horsepower FF (fossil fuel) outboard.
Another big step for eboating
With the unveiling at Genoa, Yamaha also announced that they are taking European pre-orders (sorry, from boat builders only) for spring of 2022 and will bring the HARMO to the US market in 2023.
While it took 5 years to go from prototype to market, a Yamaha electric boat motor is big news for the advance of eboating. In 2013 they celebrated the delivery of their 10 millionth outboard, and a company factbook from 2018 shows they sold 300,000 units that year.
The HARMO is launching in Europe because of the tighter environmental restrictions there (compared to the US), and Ben Speciale, Yamaha Marine U.S. Business Unit president, says “Harmo is the perfect system for horsepower- or internal-combustion restricted waterways.” So while electric outboards are a long way from mainstream, when both Yamaha – who claim about 1/3 of worldwide sales – and market leader Brunswick/Mercury announce that they will have 5 electric outboard models in the US by 2023 … you know we are getting close to major changes in the way boats are propelled.