Yamaha starts trials on twin electric boat motor unit

The twin electric boat motor unit is integrated with a steering control system – HARMO – and trials begin August 7 on the Otaru Canal tourist attraction in Hokkaido, Japan.

Yamaha calls HARMO its “next-generation control system platform” which includes electric rim motors, a remote-control box and a joystick ‘for more intuitive operation’. The company is hoping to offer HARMO as a total package for people, especially in Europe, looking into electric boats for use on canals.

twin electric boat motor unit will be tested on the Otaru Canal, shown here with Europen loking stone warehousesThe Otaru Canal test site is one of the leading tourist spots in Hokkaido. It was dredged and completed in 1923 to serve as a water shipping route to transport cargo to the sea. This happened at a time when Japan was undergoing a great deal of westernization, and  stone warehouses echoing European design were built along the course of the waterway.

Its usefulness as a commercial route ended in 1986, but the city took steps to turn it into a destination. A promenade and garden were built along a stretch of it and 63 ornate gas lamps were installed to create the atmosphere for romantic evening cruises.

Twin electric boat motor and steering unit = short turning radius

Yamaha views the European market, with its thousands of kilometres of canals, as the main market for the HARMO, and the Otaru set-up mimics those waters fairly closely.

photo of one of the rim motors that makes up the twin electric boat motor unitThe motors are rim motors, similar in design to what was installed in the RS Electric Pulse 58 RIB boat launched at BOOT Dusseldorf this past January. Rather than the propeller being driven through a central axle, the propellers are attached to the rim of the motor, which Yamaha prefers for this unit because strong thrust can be generated at low speeds.

The joystick and HARMO steering mechanism provide a large steering angle, so a boat can turn almost on the spot (see video below). For docking, simply tilting the joystick moves the boat horizontally. All of this is obviously important on narrow canals.

The concept of multiple electric motors being used to navigate tight spaces is not new for canal boats. UK Plugboats reader Jonathan Evans detailed for us how he put a Lynch electric motor in each corner of his renovated canal boat. He originally was to have it all controlled by 1 joystick, but opted for 4 individual sticks instead. 

The other reason Yamaha is looking to Europe is because of the increasing restrictions on fossil fuel boats on inland waterways and an increasing general environmental awareness.

In England, there are now an estimated 10,000 people in London alone who use canal boats as their principal residences. Amsterdam has a city ordinance that commercial boat traffic be electric by 2025, and the Venice 2028 Agenda is a petition to have Venice adopt similar rules. (»» Find out more and sign the petition)

Take a look at these beautiful electric canal boats of Amsterdam 

Of course, all of the benefits of the HARMO system accompany the usual advantages of electric boat motors: significantly lower vibration and noise, and zero toxic and foul smelling fumes.

Concept goes back to 2016 

The HARMO concept goes back to 2016, where it attracted a lot of attention at the world’s largest marine trade fair, METSTrade. It was also exhibited at the 2020 BOOT Dusseldorf this past January.

The HARMO falls under the mandate of  Yamaha’s   “ART for Human Possibilities, Rethinking Solutions, Transforming Mobility”. Other projects include electric golf cars, small and low speed PPMs (Public Personal Mobility: land cars), electric motorcycles, electrically power assisted bicycles, electric wheelchairs, and drones.

They also made electric mobility news in February when they unveiled a 200kW motor ‘for automobiles and other types of vehicles’.

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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