It works thanks to an ancient technology, also rediscovered by NASA, is environmentally friendly, quiet, does not produce vibration and is motorless.” Mobil Tech’s ZEUS200 generator for small and medium-sized boats impressed us so much that we decided to go and find out more about how this ingenious Made in Italy product was born and how it works.
At Milan Yachting Week, our permanent digital boat show, it is one of the most visited products. The figure does not surprise us because, before Mobil Tech’s ZEUS200 generator came on the market, a real solution for small and medium-sized sailboats (9 meters and above, to be clear) did not exist.
Born out of Mobil Tech’s experience in the RV industry, for which the company has been making similar generators for years, ZEUS200 produces 200 W (at 12 V it delivers 15 amps) weighs 36.5 kilograms and is compact (670x330x305 mm is the size), but that’s not the point. The keys to its success are its very low noise, its very low fuel consumption, and its almost complete lack of maintenance. How is this possible? Simple. This generator does not have a motor. Or rather, not a conventional diesel combustion engine.
AN ANCIENT SECRET
To understand its secret, explains Simone Barin, Mobil Tech’s technical manager, we need to take a step back. “We use technology that dates back to the late 1800s. Discovered by the Estonian physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck and fell into disuse until NASA optimized it starting in the 1970s and used it for its probes because of its high reliability and independence. Just think that Voyager 2, launched into space in 1977, still operates today thanks to the Seebeck power generation system“.
But what is the working principle? The effect consists of the passage of electric current when two dissimilar metals joined together are placed at different temperatures: “ZEUS200 has inside it twelve Seebeck modules of about 6 x 6 cm, composed of two ‘sides’ of different metals, specifically tellurium and bismuth. By heating one side of these modules with a small 5 kW oil burner-derived from the world of heaters and therefore silent and proven-and at the same time cooling the other side with a closed circuit (consisting of fresh water, exchanger, seawater), the thermal differential generates energy. There are no moving parts as there are in endothermic engines. Forget about maintenance!”
SILENT AND “ECHO”
Diesel fuel consumption? “At least five times less than a conventional diesel generator, we are talking about 0.2-0.6 liters per hour.” The noise? “Just like that of a heater-so absolutely negligible.” It certainly generates less power than a diesel generator, but its quiet operation, low power consumption, and the fact that once installed on board you forget about it are making it a bestseller, especially in the world of smaller boats.
Otherwise, it functions like a normal genset: it can supply power to two battery banks (starter and services) and in turn handle other energy sources such as solar panels, turbines or hydro generators, prioritizing free energy. It works with any type of battery (lead, AGM, gel, lithium) and has the advantage of being “smart”: “ZEUS200 is programmed with 16 algorithms that optimize charging depending on the battery and automatically turns off and on depending on the state of charge.” The retail price of ZEUS200 is 4,800 euros + VAT.