Integrel System is Poor execution of a great idea!
In 2019, NauticEd was invited to the UK to visit a small start-up company called Triskel Marine. They were putting the finishing touches on an innovative product called the Integrel (Inteligent generation of electricity). Integrel promised to generate electricity off of the main propulsion engine in much the same way an alternator does EXCEPT instead of the 800 watts that an alternator draws, Integrel promised up to 9000 watts.
As a technology and sailing company, NauticEd is tech-forward. We are always looking forward to promoting smart technology that helps sailors, boats, and the planet. Additionally, as an education company, one of our goals is to educate students and consumers as to new sailing technology and the pros and cons of such.
The Integrel device used smart electronics to manage the raw 3-phase electricity coming off an alternator-sized permanent magnet generator and converted that electricity into 54 v DC electricity which was then stored in 48 v DC bank of Lithium-Ion batteries. Brilliant! And, it worked well in the labs and on a few installations.
The invention was developed by the famous engineer Nigel Calder who is one of the world’s most notable and respected authors in boat electricity and boat engine mechanics. Calder took the idea to Triskel who developed it.
The whole principle is quite simple. Even a small diesel engine is capable of producing a lot of electricity. In energy terms, 40hp is equivalent to 30kW. Since the propeller at normal operating RPM draws less than half of the available 30kW, this leaves a lot of remaining energy to be available for generation into electricity – even while motoring in gear. So the concept was to draw off electricity from excess available power from the main propulsion engine using some smart electronics attached to a dumb alternator-type device. The extra alternator-type device was attached to the engine via a new bracket bolted onto the engine on the opposite side of the existing alternator. It was driven by a belt attached to an additional pulley mounted in front of the alternator pulley.
The concept even won the European Dame award and the USA’s IBEX innovation award. And thus at the time, it was a no-brainer for NauticEd to endorse the product and promote it. The product promised innovative technology, to be environmentally friendly, and a solution to an age-old energy problem — all ideals that NauticEd firmly believes in.
Unfortunately, Triskel Marine has failed to properly bring the Integrel to be a market worthy device and NauticEd has witnessed too many failures and installation problems to be comfortable with furthering any endorsement or promotion. Failures have been seen in belt wear and breakage, bracket bending and breakage, high load fatigue wear and breakage on the bracket mounting bolts – causing a global recall of mounting brackets, and software bug issues seemingly to randomly appear. To date, not all customers have been made whole with the software bug issues. That is not to say that certain installations have not been successful. When it works, it works. Time will tell as to the continued operational success of these installations (but time also brings new and better technology).
Although NauticEd did question some of these technical issues early on in 2019, Triskel provided full assurances as to the workings of the system. NauticEd relied on these assurances in the continued promotion of the product. At this point in time, NauticEd is no longer satisfied and removes its endorsement.
Almost Every Installation in the USA Had Some Sort of Failure or Has Remaining Issues To Date
Specifically, one customer in Texas, after almost 2 years post-installation, has an inoperable unit with broken bracket bolts and software that completely resets itself anytime Integrel is turned off. Triskel refused to reimburse over $6000 in extra installation problems with the failing software and set-up Apps. Another customer in California still has the same software issue however Triskel did end up reimbursing that customer $20k for the continuing installation issues – yet the problem remains unsolved. In Florida, one customer has threatened to sue due to ongoing issues and is yet to be reimbursed. Another customer in South Carolina has had bad wearing belt issues. In Washington State, one customer, although apparently satisfied now, had significant issues with the set-up and startup – 2 Integrel controllers had to be replaced due to poor quality and extra funds were expended by the installer to get the unit working. In another instance, in Connecticut, another two Integrel controllers had to be replaced due to quality. In Annapolis, a customer is still experiencing software issues a year later after installation and the same with a customer in Virginia. Additionally, Integrel relies upon an intelligent cut-off switch to cut power from any runaway currents from the Li-Ion batteries. Many times this switch has had to be replaced and even in 2021 there were still problems with reliable design and quality manufacturing. After the US distributor submitted invoices to Triskel for all the engineering issues, Triskel refused to pay. Whether this refusal is due to lack of funds or other issues it is unknown.
On top of all this, both the major engine manufacturers, Yanmar and Volvo, have clearly stated that they void their warranty of their engines if the Integrel is attached. This is based on the fear that the high side loads on their engines from the Integrel may cause excessive wear on the driveshaft bearings. Triskel has been waving around a letter early on that Volvo did allow Integrel to be attached but NauticEd has learned that Volvo has since rescinded that allowance and Triskel is not announcing that. Triskel have since claimed that they have umbrella insurance to cover the lack of warranty issue but this insurance document has never been made public.
In NauticEd’s opinion, Triskel has suffered the classic start-up company issues whereby constant engineering development and bug issues drained too much of the available company funds while the main principles were continuing to draw a salary. Additionally, lack of confidence by the original staff caused a complete walk-out and replacement of company staff (and subsequently the loss of critical original knowledge base of the product). Covid didn’t appear to help the company either with lack of supply of critical PCB’s and thus suffrage of quality. Many components on customers’ boats were breaking and have had to be replaced – further reducing available funds causing failure to pay vendors. While bills have been left unpaid, many issues have been fixed, but at what cost to Triskel, and what about long-term support for continued teething pains? In the middle of the Pacific in 2 years, if a Triskel proprietary controller goes down, what are the chances a new one can be had?
NauticEd has also learned that almost all of the original investors and stockholders have left and/or sold out, including the product’s inventor Nigel Calder. The two principals running Triskel now have never been in the marine industry before.
For sure, there are Integrel systems out there working and the early adopters of the working systems are advocates. However, given the issues, the justification to remove the endorsement is valid and probably past due.
The annoying thing to NauticEd is that this is a classic case of the poor implementation of a good and sound idea. The idea of drawing energy off the main propulsion engine and storing it for later use in Lithium-Ion is extremely sound as proposed by Calder.
Thus NauticEd recommends staying away from Integrel and/or Triskel Marine at the moment – perhaps their late 2021 reorganization will work and their new engineering, shipping, quality control, software, and hardware teams can pull through. But ultimately we recommend to rather wait for a larger more stable company to bring a similar idea and technology to market.
Alternate Suggestions – Hybrid Systems
Two boat manufacturers that are leading the market in a similar area are Antares Catamarans Hybrid and HH Catamarans Hybrid. Both companies have implemented a Parallel Hybrid system. The Parallel Hybrid system draws energy from the drive shaft on its way to the propeller. A clutch/gearbox goes between the engine and the propeller. It pulls some mechanical energy where it is plentiful from the driveshaft and sends to a 6kW electric generator which also doubles as an electric motor. The bountiful energy produced is stored in 48vDC Lithium-Ion batteries. The cleverness of this solution is that the diesel engine can be turned off and the electric motor can then drive the propeller making this a true hybrid drive system. When sailing, the free-spinning propeller can also regenerate electricity through the connected generator. The electrical energy created and stored can also be used for boat electricity and such high draw loads as powering the air conditioning – from batteries – which leads to a nice quiet night’s sleep.
As a early adopter of technologies itself, NauticEd recognizes that, for new companies, there are certainly growing pains – and that there have been. While the Triskel may have reorganized, unfortunately, NauticEd can no longer support the system or the risks that correspond to the implementation of this new technology and associated company.
Time has taken a toll and in doing so, newer technology has arrived and many marine outfitters, stable companies in and of themselves, are now promoting their own solutions to the onboard energy solution.
In summary, NauticEd recommends to wait for the further development of hybrid systems. With two boat manufacturers already implementing this type of system, hybrid systems should be entering the market sooner than you think.
To learn more about the hybrid solution, see our Energy on Your Boat article.