UW-APL Clean Propulsion

Executive Summary:

The UW Applied Physics Laboratory is asking the Campus Sustainability Fund for $28,350 to purchase an electric propulsion system from PureWaterCraft and hydraulic steering controls. Funds from this grant will be used to bring a new technology into the UW Applied Physics Laboratory which we could not do without being awarded a grant or contract specifically requiring it. Optionally, a system supporting smaller hulls could be purchased for $19850 if the committee prefers.

An Applied Physics Laboratory student team, working with Engineers from UW APL and PureWaterCraft, will design a mounting and control system which will allow the motor and battery pack to move easily between a multitude of hull types such as a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) and a Whaler style hull. The RHIB install will be set up for transport to remote locations for rapid deployment in fragile environments. The control systems will enable remote or autonomous control of the vessel for future research and development of autonomous systems and obstacle avoidance which will be used for future student projects.

Both hulls will be clearly marked UW APL and Electric Drive Research Vessel or some other indication of alternative energy to encourage outreach. A student run competition to design the graphics will further drive interest in the project. Photos of these boats will be included in project write ups and publications which may get broad distribution. These boats will be seen often while operating around the Seattle waterfront and Lake Washington and in reports and news stories when operating remotely.

UW APL will work with the Seattle Yacht Club to register the boat for the opening day Regatta, bring it to Curiosity Days: Climate Change (Formerly Polar Science Weekend) at the Pacific Science Center, and use it to develop a new pilot program for elementary students focused on sustainable research in and about our local waterways.

CSF funds will be used to purchase the propulsion system from PureWaterCraft along with a hydraulic steering and control system which will support Remote or Autonomous operation. UW APL will supply a hull for the project. UW APL will also fund the student time for the project and individual engineers will donate the mentoring time for the installation and system test.

Once the installation is complete, this project will allow UW APL Engineers and student interns the opportunity to evaluate an emerging technology for use in some of the most fragile marine environments in the world. APL frequently undertakes projects in the Arctic and other areas where they encourage or require researchers to “leave no trace”.

The UW APL is a leader in AUV development and use which requires many launch and recovery operations from small boats. Researchers Craig McNeil and Sarah Webster, along with APL Field Engineers and student helpers operate vehicles that navigate underwater using acoustics that are sensitive to noise in the water. The virtually silent propulsion system from PureWaterCraft will be ideal for tracking and recovering AUVs while the absence of exhaust makes life better for the students and Field Engineers in the boat at slow idle or station keeping waiting for a vehicle to surface.

The UW APL works with researchers, scientists and engineers all over the world and needs stay current to be able to continue to lead by example.

Student Involvement:

Students will lead the design and installation with oversight and mentoring from UW APL engineers.These boats will be used primarily by students and Field Engineers to deploy and recover AUVs and various other marine equipment or to support a larger vessel. 

The vessel will be instrumental in helping with capstone design projects for both UW Bothell and Seattle campuses. APL routinely hosts student Capstone Teams and this vessel will provide a unique framework for designing the future of clean, sustainable research and engineering. A design competition for the boat’s graphics will be created with submissions coming from local high schools and universities. The competition will promote sustainability and the winners will get to ride in the opening day float boat parade along with the students leading the design and installation of the system. 

UW APL has 32 undergraduates and 24 graduate student researchers working at present. This vessel will provide an excellent testbed to support their research and will allow them to better protect the environments they study.

Education & Outreach:

UW APL is a unique position to be a technology evaluator and innovator in the regional commercial fishing industries as well as the international Oceanographic and Marine Science communities. UW APL has a long history of being actively involved in community outreach,this is the 14 th year that the UW APL has worked with the Pacific Science Center to put on Curiosity Days: Climate Change (Formerly Polar Science Weekend). Through the Collaboratory, UW APL hosts Marine Technology startups which allows us to support them and at the same time share best practices which then spread through the industry. APL and the Collaboratory are heavily involved in OCEANS Seattle 2019, the bi-annual event for global marine technologists, engineers, students, government officials, lawyers, and advocates. Events like these help us shape the future of marine technology. 

Once the vessel is complete, a talk will be given on the Current State of Electric Surface Vehicles and the lessons learned from design through construction. This talk will be presented by the student leads and open to all UW students, faculty, and staff. 

Outreach will initially consist of 2 primary efforts. One focus will be an effort to broadcast the work the University of Washington (UW) and the Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington (APL-UW) is doing in the area of marine renewable energy and low carbon footprint marine propulsion. This will be accomplished by conducting a student logo and labeling design contest to visually brand the electric boat providing awareness to anyone that sees the boat during transportation to and from boat launch sites as well as while on the water. The resulting boat configuration will include branding on the boat hull and structure highlighting the use of an all-electric propulsion system installed by UW engineering students. The logo and labeling design will be developed by conducting a logo and labeling design contest with participation from UW students. The winning designs will be selected by the student run Electric Drive Research Vessel team with an emphasis placed on equity and a locally inspired design. Once the boat is branded, the electric boat team will work with the Seattle Yacht Club to register the team and the electric boat for participation in the annual Opening Day Regatta sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club. UW APL will also bring the vessel to Curiosity Days: Climate Change (Formerly Polar Science Weekend) at the Pacific Science Center, a three-day event full of hands- on activities, live demonstrations, and exciting exhibits.

The second focus will revolve around a pilot program intended to involve elementary school students designing and conducting research using the electric drive boat. Following the pilot program, the electric boat team and the participating teacher will evaluate the effectiveness of the program and determine how the program is conducted in following years. The initial year of the pilot program will consist of a single class from Woodside Elementary School located in MillCreek, Washington. This school was selected because of successful outreach efforts with Ms.Goodwin, one of the 5 th /6 th grade teachers at Woodside, in previous years. Initially Ms. Goodwin reached out APL-UW seeking involvement in her classroom resulting in her classroom participating in programs such as “Classroom at Sea”. “Classroom as Sea” was a program intended to bring classrooms and field researchers together, in this case research efforts at sea. Classrooms where invited to participate in the research cruise via video chat at which time they would ask researchers questions about their work. Ms. Goodwin used this effort to develop curriculum which not only involved the Classroom at Sea but also involved APL-UW staff coming to her classroom to assist in student projects related to the Classroom at Sea experience.This resulted in yearlong curriculum allowing her class to combine science, research methods, writing, teamwork and presentation skills. The outreach program planned for the electric boat will consist of a classroom researching science that could be conducted in local waters (lakes, rivers, estuaries, etc). They in turn will develop research involving observation and data collection that can be conducted in our local water ways throughout the school year utilizing the electric boat.

Once the desired research has been agreed upon, the students will determine what field work is required, then once per month a small team of students from that class will use the electric boat to go into the field to collect data and conduct field experiments. Upon returning to class, the entire class will then utilize the collected data to fulfill curriculum requirements. The curriculum will be developed and monitored with the student run electric boat team and the elementary school teacher to ensure the curriculum outcome is in alignment with the electric boat capabilities, student capabilities and the overall educational goals for the elementary class.

Environmental Impact:
Project Longevity:

The project consists of 4 primary tasks, with the last being the sea trials of the operational boat. The scope of work entails:
Task 1 – Motor Mount
The mounting of the motor should be relatively simple since the electric motor system being acquired is meant to be installed on smaller boats with a transom capable of 50 hp or greater. However to ensure the
electric propulsion system can be easily swapped between multiple hulls, the team will consider design and analysis to accommodate a highly mobile system. This effort will include:
1. Design and Analysis which includes brackets, considerations for controls connectivity and verification of the selected hull transom capabilities.
2. Fabrication of required hardware
3. Mounting the electric motor using the designed and fabricated hardware and testing the functionality of the mounted system.

Task 2 – Controls
The ultimate boat of the electric boat project is to end up with a fully autonomous boat. This phase of the project will consider that end goal and will design the controls system to ultimately be compatible with autonomous system components and control logic. This will require:
1. Design the system architecture for a fully autonomous boat and then design of the control elements capable of accommodating those elements in later phases of the electric boat project.
2. Installation of the components designed in task 2.1
3. Testing of the installed control elements.

Task 3 – Batteries
The electric drive system comes with a self-contained battery system but the team will need to consider a design to allow for easy installation and removal with the goal of a system that can be easily swapped from boat to boat. This will entail:
1. Battery Mount design considering the range of boats the system is to be installed into.
2. Installation of the battery pack in the selected hull
3. Testing of the installation to ensure the battery pack is secure and can easily be installed and removed.
Task 4 – Sea Trials (system testing and validation)
Once the system is installed the team will design a series of tests to be performed to validate the project success. Upon complete of the sea trial test plan, the team will conduct the sea trials to validate the
design and system functionality. The final task is registering for and participating in in the 2020 Opening Day Floating Parade.

Project Timeline
Receive Decision June 1
Receive Funding June 15
Select and Prepare hull(s) August 1
Motor Mount Design and Installation September
Receive Motor and battery pack(s) September 15
Control System Design and Installation October
Battery Mounting Design and Installation November
System Test/Demo December
Opening Day Parade May 2020

Environmental Problem:

As a leader in Arctic research, UW APL operates small boats in the most fragile environments in the world, locally we have small craft operating in Lake Washington frequently and moored in the lake every day. The gas powered motors on our boats are properly maintained, however they still emit exhaust which is run underwater before rising to the surface leaving pollutants in the water and in the air. Typical outboard motors emit 10x-150x the cancer-causing emissions of a modern car due to the lack of requirements for catalytic converters. This pollutes the water and is detrimental to researching and understanding fragile marine ecosystems.

On average, switching all the gas outboards in this boat’s power class (10-50HP) to electric propulsion would result in a ~67% reduction in CO2 across the country, and even more in
Washington State. Some of the sensors we design or purchase can be contaminated by oil and exhaust residue rendering them inaccurate or inoperable. Long before the UW Climate Action
Plan was created, UW APL lived in a word of “leave no trace”. Please help us show the UW brand in the best way.

Looking to manufacturing impacts on sustainability, The Pure Outboard motor is designed to last 20,000 hours and the battery pack 7,000 hours which reduces the emissions of motor/battery
system compared to traditional gasoline outboard motor (4,000 hours) by more than half. 

While conducting research in the Puget Sound, the vessel will be charged at the Applied Physics Laboratory docks with power supplied by the UW Seattle campus. This electricity comes from 94.4% renewable energy sources a majority of which are hydro-electric.

For remote deployments, renewable energy sources will be used to charge the vessel whenever possible. Andy Stewart and his team have developed a Wave Energy Buoy that Self-deploys (WEBS) that can be used to charge the vessel in fragile marine environments with minimal impact on local wildlife. The WEBS System could be easily deployed off the edge of a mothership if in the artic and could recharge the vessel while it is not in operation. There are a number of other cutting edge renewable energy technologies that are being developed at UW APL which could provide power in the future. This vessel will serve as an excellent test load to measure new technologies that are currently under development.

When deploying from an Ice Breaker or similar large research vessel it may be most efficient to charge from the large vessel. No fuel tanks will have to be transferred between vessels or re-filled while in the water. The PureWaterCraft battery pack is designed to heat before charging in extreme environments to prevent damage to the pack.


Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Total amount requested from the CSF:
This funding request is a:
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Pure Outboard Motor6000
Pure Battery Pack8500
Pure Charger2000
SeaStar Pro Steering1600
Reactor 40 Hydraulic Autopilot1750
Optional 2 nd Battery Pack8500

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total: $28,350


Receive DecisionJune 1
Receive FundingJune15
Select and Prepare hull(s)August 1
Motor Mount Design and InstallationSeptember
Receive Motor and battery pack(s)September 15
Control System Design and InstallationOctober
Battery Mounting Design and InstallationNovember
System Test/DemoDecember
System Test/DemoMay 2020