The following is a softened summary of the bad Panda genset news. The good news is that the customer service and support of our supplier in New Zealand has been absolutely first-rate — that is Enertec Power Solutions. Enertec also supplied all of our Mastervolt chargers, DC-DC converters and 230V inverter. Because we have had problems every year over the past ten years with our Panda 10kW genset, we have emailed or phoned dozens of inquiries to Enertec, who have always supplied prompt, expert, relevant support and guidance — especially from Colin Pawson and Maladen Bartolec. From them we have compiled a trouble-shooting guide that usually helps us fix the Panda beast ourselves — in remote locations of course.
That was the good news. For two months we’ve been immersed in dealing with the catastrophic failure of our Fischer Panda generator. There is a serious design fault in our Panda, which appears to be present in both the smaller and larger Panda models owned by other yachts we know.
In particular, our asynchronous alternator housing has the windings harness exiting very near the bottom of the casing. To my astonishment there are no water tight seals, not even a basic $2 gland – just a roughly 50mm hole in the aluminium casting. Therefore, any significant seawater leak in the genset plumbing can fill the sound shield to a level where the seawater enters the alternator casing and infiltrates the windings. In our case in less than 5 minutes that seawater flood fatally damaged the alternator winding insulation.
Our flooding and alternator damage was caused by the complete failure of the Panda-supplied GEM hose clamp securing the heat exchanger seawater-out hose barb. The GEM hose clamp sheared across it’s width. Worse, none of the Panda hose barbs were double-clamped as they should be. Most of the Panda-designed hose barbs are so short that it is nearly impossible to double clamp safely.
Given the very real probability of seawater faults it is very clear that the alternator must be protected from seawater damage. Similarly, there is a serious fire risk for any seawater leak which results in spray falling on any unprotected wiring or terminations. So not only the alternator requires at least IP-66 protection, so does all of the wiring vulnerable to seawater faults. And obviously, all of the seawater hose connections require double hose clamps of highest quality. We have replaced all the Panda hose clamps with double ABA all 316 clamps. Similarly the exhaust hose barbs are secured with Mikalor all 316 stainless T-bolt exhaust hose clamps.
Though the catastrophic failure is entirely the fault of Fischer Panda, they take no responsibility, and want NZ$ 7,000 just to deliver a replacement alternator assembly (no labour, just the destroyed part — so realistically to fix Fischer Panda’s gross design problem would have cost us a minimum of NZ$10,000 using Panda parts). Our only other official Panda option is to buy a new genset for NZ$ 23,000 + deinstallation and reinstallation costs. So we had no practical alternative other than to send the alternator off for rewinding, and the Kubota three cylinder diesel off for new rings, valve lapping and other upgrades that we hope will help the diesel perform through the 7,000 hour mark.
This is not intended to be a thorough review of the Fischer Panda marine generator. That would require many more pages and more time than I have. If you are buying a generator (or a boat with a generator) you do not want a Fischer Panda UNLESS you absolutely must have a physically small, lightweight generator. If you have the space for a larger generator and can afford, per kW, close to double the weight of the Panda, you will be far happier with a reliable, old-fashioned generator such as the 1500 RPM Northern Lights. It is a heavy monster, but very simple and far less likely to fail.