Torqeedo: The Technology: Corrosion Protection

Torqeedo: The Technology


Corrosion Protection

The demands of corrosion protection are one of the key topics surrounding maritime leisure. As such, the highest standards for material selection are observed, especially in a saltwater environment. To ensure functionality and a long service life. This applies particularly to electric motors as the combination of electricity and saltwater can have an extremely destructive effect in the event of a malfunction, or improper handling (leakage currents, incorrect earthing).

A distinction is generally made between three types of corrosion: electrochemical, galvanic and electrolytic. All three types can occur in saltwater as well as fresh water, but the effects in saltwater are far more destructive. Aside from salt content, other factors such as pH value and temperature can also play a role.

Electrochemical corrosion occurs, for example, when a nail is placed in water and rusts. It is, therefore, the degradation resulting when an easily corroding material comes into contact with water. With carefully selected materials, this type of corrosion can be avoided completely. This is why we only use A4-grade stainless steel, saltwater-resistant aluminium and extremely high-quality and impact-resistant plastics such as PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) below the waterline.

In order to achieve the best possible compromise between corrosion resistance, strength and hardness, Torqeedo make sure to use only the best of what leading-edge steel technology currently offers for mechanically critical parts. For the propeller shaft, for example, this means 1.4044-grade special purpose steel; for the shaft sheath on the Cruise they even use 1.4571 grade with titanium, a steel that is also used in the construction of drive shafts for container and cruise ships. Even when the parts that are submerged in water often have the additional protection of coatings such as anodisation and seawater resistant paints. Torqeedo do not rely on the coating (as coatings can suffer mechanical damage) but make sure they select only corrosion-resistant articles when choosing basic materials.

Galvanic corrosion always occurs when two conductive materials with different chemical properties carry a current and touch under water.

Galvanic corrosion cannot occur if any of these conditions do not hold true. This should make it quite clear how galvanic corrosion can be prevented. For example, all conductive materials can be insulated from each other or electrochemically identical materials can be used (no galvanic corrosion at all can occur between an aluminium pylon support and an aluminium shaft sheath). Nevertheless, the complete exclusion of galvanic corrosion demands great care in the design phase and is very complex at a number of points (e.g. insulating the propeller shaft from the pylon support).

This is why the much simpler principle of the galvanic (sacrificial) anode has found greater acceptance in the boating industry. A galvanic anode is an electrochemically base metal (such as zinc or magnesium) that is attached to the motor in a way where more noble metals are protected against galvanic corrosion. Over time, the galvanic anode disintegrates and must be replaced.

Torqeedo has chosen to take the more sophisticated path in this respect. That’s why the Travel is today, the only outboard motor that functions without a galvanic anode. It is designed from start to finish so that galvanic corrosion can be completely ruled out.

Electrolytic corrosion is the potentially the most destructive type of corrosion. It acts around 10,000 times faster than galvanic corrosion and can literally dissolve entire motors within a matter of days. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that electrolytic corrosion is always due to wiring faults, especially to problems with earthing.

A common error is, for example, to connect the Cruise 4.0 to 4 serially wired 12 V lead batteries and then the on-board radio, too – which needs 12 V supply voltage. And in such a way that it’s connected between the 3rd and 4th lead batteries (between 36 and 48 V). Since most simple electronic devices have their earth on the housing, a radio attached to the hull of an aluminium boat will result in a voltage difference of 36 V between the boat’s hull and the motor earthing, which can lead to dramatic corrosive effects. This problem does not occur if the on-board radio is connected between 0 and 12 V (i.e. between the 1st and 2nd batteries).