Saturday, November 10, 2007

Read All About It

It's out! A three-page article in the December edition of Waterways World all about our boat's conversion to electric drive. AND they'd done all the minor edits I suggested.

Two slight catches in the "contacts" panel at the end.....

Firstly, they've published my blog about the conversion.... ( ... and I've still masses to write up! My idea was to write at length to include all the details and fiddly problems... but there so many of them!!

Secondly, not at my suggestion, they've included contact details for the Electric Boat Association (which is fine and sensible) but also TELCO. Which, if only I'd realised they might, I would have said "no WAY"!!!

TELCO is the Thames Electric Launch Company, headed by one Emrys Burrell (I think I've got that right, I've tried to expunge his name from my memory)... I approached him for advice (two years ago, now) and he came to look at the boat. Des (brother-in-law) and Alan (boatyard engineer) were there. Alan loathed him anyway from other contact, I'd discovered. Des was startled. I was gob-smacked....

Thing was, I'd emailed Emrys all the general idea, he basically emailed back "fine, fine"... and then when he turned up he said (1) oh, we'd have to have plug in shore re-charging, no other way to get a full recharge.... but I'd SAID a key point was not to need shore-based recharging, (2) oh, we couldn't re-charge whilst running along, far too dangerous... but I'd SAID this was a key part of my plan (3) we must have at least 800 A-hrs of battery storage, best form was 2V standard traction cells... making a mere 266(!) cells required, all slightly separated, the boat would have to be totally reballasted... (and, of course, I'd SAID I wanted to avoid this whole problem if at all possible!)

Finally, he recommended they should go under the bed, adding that they'd need a gas-proof box with a flame proof vent so that when they gave off hydrogen whilst recharging (I'd SAID we'd want sealed-type batteries!) this would get away safely... and we didn't want batteries exploding, nasty effect. I'm still not quite sure how I kept a straight face at the idea of sleeping over batteries that might explode if safety precautions failed (one tiny leak would have been quite enough!) (I had, of course, discussed battery safety in my earlier email, yes, yes... E.B. had clearly ignored that - I even began to wonder if he could read...)

I saw Des and Alan giving me curious looks whilst Emrys was talking... was I going to say his ideas were hopeless then and there?... Well, you can't, can you? - and I reckon he was relying on this to force an unsuitable sale on me.

I had a moment with Alan after Emrys had left... I said (something like) "My goodness, the man's an idiot, his suggestions for the batteries are impractical, crazy and dangerous... and why's he say NOW the things can only recharge at 20 Amps maximum... it was one of the questions I asked him in my email, whether there were cells that could recharge quickly enough." Alan broke into a huge grin of relief. I said "You told me he was rather a difficult man, you didn't tell me he doesn't even know his electrics properly!!"

We gave Des lunch, following this. After a slight pause, I could see Des was wondering how to broach that he thought Emrys was appalling... although he was dubious rather than sure about some of the suggestions being crazy, he had realised the man had been steam-rollering that "he knew best" like a hard sell, rather than considering the problems and requirements. I eased Des's mind by saying (something like) "Well, that was a waste of time!"

Later on I did some calculations... from what Emrys had said his batteries couldn't even be reliably re-charged in less than eight hours - FAR too long to be practical! ... I phoned him to explain with the data .. "Oh," he said "Oh".... "Don't worry, I'll work out a way round"... I said "You can't, it's basic physics."

And then a year later he sent a full bill for "consultation"! I'd already said (email) I wouldn't pay that - I said I'd agreed to pay for expert advice and it had turned out he was no expert at all, the only things he'd advised anybody wouldn't already know were of no use. But I did agree to pay for his visiting time.... and we did.

Mind you, I may have been being a bit unfair - negative information is often almost as useful as positive and my irritation did cause me to work out more exactly what would (probably) work (and does, we now know!)

It remains annoying that the man has generated such good publicity for himself... when, OK, only a few examples, but the only conversions I've heard of that TELCO have done, people have found less than satisfactory.... to say the least.... until I heard such earthy remarks I, too, had assumed TELCO knew their stuff.... from what, it would appear, was actually Emrys promoting his business under the guise of "interesting information." Mind you, perhaps he believes himself, who knows?

I've found another use for a blog, to expostulate. Rant, even. Must say, it is annoying that Waterways World, in their "wisdom" put TELCO as a contact... and when I sent Richard Fairhurst, their editor, details of my (definitely useful) contacts I was within ace-aimes of saying (in the email) "Please don't put TELCO as a contact"... ah, hindsight is a wonderful thing...


  1. I enjoyed the article in W.W. and your blog.
    I am commissioning a new widebeam boat in the near future and want it to be electrically powered and not dependent on shorebased electricity. Your hybrid concept seems excellent, and I wondered if it could be applied to my project, with modifications obviously.
    I assume that at least double the power given to Worcester would be required for my boat. What are your thoughts.
    joe gillespie

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed the article - and I can't see why our system wouldn't work (adjusted to suit the size of boat) perfectly well for you....

    AB happened to spot your comment here by absolute fluke... hence my delay in replying!... If you'd like to go into more possible detail, feel free to email edwin.osborn"at"


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