COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) Clean Hybrid Solutions
for commercial, leisure and military craft
- Demonstrated in an original Venice water taxi -

Greener cars are finally arriving. Now it's time to kickstart the revolution on water. We are developing a clean and green hybrid electric engine, which can be dropped into existing boats. The time for change is now. Join us on our journey.

Duration: 3:12 mins

Why are we doing this?

  • Everybody is aware of the effects of transport in cities but not all of us experience the issues caused by water based transport. Smelly exhaust gas and particle emissions from polluting engines are causing serious health issues and contributing hugely to global warming, which ultimately results in dramatic natural disasters. Noise, pollution and vibration from operating boats shake the foundations, destroys peace and relaxation, drives away wildlife.

  • Our oil dependency has serious global consequences. It causes conflicts and crisis with its unstable prices and unsustainable supply, let alone major environmental and safety problems at oil fields, oil refineries and during transportation. Every year there are several incidents where oil spillages destroy beaches, marshlands, fragile aquatic ecosystems; harming animals; causing deaths, injuries and economic damages.

  • Whilst ‘clean & green’ technology is now making good progress in the automotive industry, such revolution has still lagged far behind in the marine world. “The industry has been caught by a circular argument. There’s been nothing that the customers can buy off the shelf – so they won't ask for it. At the same time, the big manufacturers are not offering greener solutions as there’s no queue of customers. The risk for manufacturers to offer such products is high. And frankly, there seems no need for them to change because their business works as is.” explains our founder, Dr Dennis Doerffel. We want to break through this vicious cycle that prevents the revolution of 'clean & green' technologies.

Why? Because someone should… and we can. Our partner in Venice states:“Cleaner technologies should be well established by now. It is really overdue.”

What are we doing?

REAPsystems are creating a clean drop-in hybrid diesel electric engine that can be installed by any boat builder and fitted into all existing boats. At this stage, we start with Venice water taxi for demonstrations. We believe that this solution can address all the current challenges.

How does it work?

This hybrid system, uses the latest diesel engine technology, paired with a high-power, compact and efficient electric motor & inverter; a modern lithium-ion battery and advanced system control unit.

Our founder, Dr Dennis Doerffel with the diesel engine and the high power electric motor. This size of electric motor could power a whole pilot boat at more than 6 knots, which demonstrates the high power density and efficiency of electric machines.

Our founder, Dr Dennis Doerffel with the diesel engine and the high power electric motor. This size of electric motor could power a whole pilot boat at more than 6 knots, which demonstrates the high power density and efficiency of electric machines.

This is a parallel hybrid configuration, where both units – the diesel and the electric - are connected to a conventional sterndrive. In the city, the engine can be 'clutched out' to allow pure electric drive. Here, at low speed and where it matters most, we will benefit from all the advantages of the electric motor: no noise, no pollution, no vibrations, no fuel consumption. During medium to high speed, the diesel engine automatically and smoothly takes over. During diesel operation, the electric motor works as a generator, recharging the batteries and pushing the engine into a more efficient engine loading. During fast transients of the diesel engine, the electric motor may also assist in order to reduce exhaust emissions.

Rendered images of the hybrid diesel electric engine to be installed in our original Venice water taxi.

Rendered images of the hybrid diesel electric engine to be installed in our original Venice water taxi.

How does it help?

Apart from the environmental benefits mentioned above, we estimate an average fuel saving of at least 50% if compared with current diesel engine boats. This is thanks to the ultra efficient electric motor and clever control system.

The electric motor is very responsive, it can operate down to zero rpm and change smoothly from forward to reverse rotation. This gives the driver impressive manoeuvrability – much better than what can be achieved with existing diesel engines. It will allow a more controlled and safe operation in the confined spaces of Venetian canals - all without gear changes.

As a drop-in and compact solution the hybrid electric drive-train can be installed into all existing diesel boats by any boat builder either as a replacement or as an add on to an existing diesel engine. There is virtually no compromise on passenger or cargo carrying capabilities.

The diesel engine only runs when high output is required. This is what they are designed for. No need for long, inefficient and damaging idle operation. In short, it will run less and better, increasing engine life, reducing emissions and minimising maintenance. In fact, we believe that the biggest saving for the operator will be in their cost of maintenance. This is one of the points that we want to prove with the demonstration in Venice.

The hybrid system comprises two systems in one. Hence, the operator will benefit from high reliability and peace of mind backup. If there is an issue with the diesel system, it will be possible to get home with the electric system or if there is any issue with the electric system then the conventional and proven diesel system can be used.

Why not pure electric?

There has been an unsuccessful project in Venice with a taxi boat and since then, authorities are not keen on pure electrics. They fear they would need a fleet of rescue vessels to tow stranded boats with empty batteries. If the boat was pure electric, a single run to the airport and back would require a battery capacity of 150 kWh. Such a large battery is very costly. Additionally, they would need a network of fast charging stations in order to support the 20 other runs to the airport on the same day... So, in this case, one innovation (pure electric boats) is not possible without the other (fast recharging stations), making it hard to get off the ground.

We agree that ultimately, if we want to be fully sustainable, we cannot rely on oil at all. We will have to run our boats either on renewable liquid fuels (e.g. ethanol) or on compressed gas or with high energy density battery systems and a network of recharging stations or using human power or wind.

However, these technologies are currently not feasible for the marketplace (I am happy to discuss this one...). We don't want to wait for the “big decision” nobody wants to make. We want to start making changes now instead of waiting for the “big idea”. The marine industry is very risk averse and resistant to change. So, any change in the marine industry is difficult - continuous improvement has a better chance. It is better to make a small change now that can reach many instead of aiming for the big change that will take another 15 years.

Our hybrid technology will get everyone started and thinking. The infrastructure for our technology is fully developed and the acceptance is high. A typical engine in a Venice water taxi has a few years life and after that it can be replaced with the next technological step. It is just important that we get MANY people interested in sustainability NOW. Our informative display and control system will change the drivers perception and raise awareness.

If you are interested in more technical or philosophical discussions, please see our perks. We have a few on offer that will allow you to meet our team, see the technology in operation or discuss on the phone. Any input welcome!

Why Venice?

Big Impact:

Venice, a unique and irreplaceable UNESCO World Heritage City has 550 water taxis and buses serving its tourist industry of 32 million visitors a year, plus approximately 20,000 engine-driven private boats circulating in the Venice lagoon for recreational purposes. Therefore Venice suffers from alarming levels of air and noise pollution, as well as the vibration of these engines, all of which dramatically effect the canal water, priceless city architecture and human health. With REAPsystems' drop-in hybrid electric solution, the city, its residents and visitors will benefit from clean air, clean water and a quieter environment; its taxi operators will enjoy lower fuel consumption, operating costs and overall cost of ownership plus greater reliability and longer life without sacrificing performance; drivers and their passengers will also enjoy the comfort of a hybrid taxi boat with minimum noise, vibration and emissions.

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

A 'drop-in' Hybrid-drive system for easy installation in Venice's existing water taxis means that the current fleet can be quickly and easily converted by any boat builder to provide cleaner, greener transport.

Great Proving Ground:

One of the reasons for the slow uptake of clean hybrid technologies in the marine market is the high reliance on the reliability of the engine. Also, the cost of training staff world-wide for maintenance, repairs and operation for any new technology is significant. Venice represents a tough testing ground to prove the reliability and longevity of our hybrid solution. A standard 9 metre water taxi typically has a long, hard 20 hour day. There are many boats in a very confined area, which means that the cost for training maintenance staff can be limited.

Very Suitable Scenario for Hybrid Technologies:

Hybrid engines don't make sense for every scenario. Our parallel hybrid engine is most suitable for varying operations that require low speed or idle periods for extended lengths of time as well as high-speed operation for some time. Venice needs both: Quiet, low vibration, low emission and good manoeuvrability at low speed inside the canals of the city as well as fast taxi runs with several people on board to the airport.

Setting the Standard - Great Timing:

The timing is perfect to influence the new regulation on boat emissions to be imposed by Venice authorities. The local authorities are currently working on new legislation concerning pollution from water-borne traffic. We hope that with our Hybrid-drive demonstrator operating in the lagoon, proving its environmental benefits, together with our partner in Venice, we can influence the legislation to favour the uptake of this green technology and set the standards.

What are our aims?

Our short-term aim is to develop a hybrid electric taxi-boat prototype that will be demonstrated and endurance tested in Venice this year, then to influence the new regulation on vehicle emissions to be imposed by the local authority.

Following this, we will get the hybrid engine into production and roll-it out to Venice and other places. Then, we will develop variants of this technology. So that we can cover a wide range of applications and crafts. In order to achieve this, we will work with our partners and with existing manufacturers of engines. Other applications include work-boats such as wind farm support vessels, patrol craft, small passenger ferries and fishing boats, survey vessels and private tenders.

What do others think about this project?

Please watch what some of our partners say about this project.

Professor Suleiman Sharkh, Head of Mechatronics, University of Southampton.

Duration: 0:23 mins

Patrick Byrne, Owner and Managing Director, Scorpion RIBs Ltd

Duration: 0:53 mins

The 40kW powerful but 12kg lightweight electric motor during testing

Become our sponsor and benefit from a unique PR opportunity we are offering. Please see the Sponsor Kit for our sponsorship packages.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, our project blog and subscribe to our newsletter. This will keep us motivated!

Our project in the press:

Find out more about Project Venice in the press.

Supporting Articles

Venice imposes short Grand Canal boat ban - by Alan Johnston

"The boats and barges pollute the water and give off fumes. At the same time, they create waves that continually slap at the crumbling walls of the ancient buildings that line the canals. The authorities would like to see a gradual switching to electric-powered craft, or boats with hybrid engines." - reported BBC on Venice short Grand Canal boat ban.

Motorboats banned from Venice canals - by Michael Day

"The acid nature of the pollution is thought to be speeding up the erosion of the city's medieval buildings, which are already sinking into the lagoon – a process exacerbated by the constant currents caused by the huge number of vessels passing through the major canals." - told Independent.


Venice bans motorboats to highlight effects of pollution - by Travelmail Reporter

An article by Daily Mail on Venice local authorities' first ever ban on motorboats crossing the Grand Canal from 10am - 3pm. "We hope it'll make Venetians more aware of how lovely the city could be if we insist on boats only with electric power." - said Paolo Lamappo, a spokesman for Italia Nostra, which works to preserve the city's heritage.