Boat and Yacht Hybrids, Engines Gaining Traction March 18, 2015

Boat and yacht hybrids – those that typically run on both fuel (gasoline/diesel) and electricity (battery or energy from the sun) – are appealing to a growing audience of buyers and builders. The evidence is seen in the attention the evolving technologies are gaining by boat show-goers across the globe and boating and general media reporting on them.

Hybrids that drew attention from reporter Doreen Hemlock of the Sun Sentinel as Miami’s twin boat shows opened on February 11 are good examples of the diverse routes that builders can take to make their products greener. The imported Greenline 48, exhibited by Denison Yachts Sales at the Yacht and Brokerage Show, is “Like Toyota’s pioneering auto [Prius which] can operate either on electricity or conventional fuel, and the brand was specifically designed to be a hybrid. It incorporates other eco-friendly and fuel-efficiency features, too, such as light-weight materials,” Hemlock said. “Greenline’s batteries store energy made either from solar panels on the yacht or recharge from the diesel engine or a plug-in at a dock.”

The reason given to Hemlock for purchasing the Greenline 48 by new owner Bob Zulkoski reflects an environmental consciousness that is present in an increasing number of buyers. “For the same amount of money, I could have bought a larger, lightly used motor yacht or trawler,” Zulkoski said of his hybrid, which cost more than half a million dollars. Yet the hybrid “stands for the right direction we should be looking for – holistically.”

Hemlock suggests more boat makers are exploring new propulsion technologies, too, as consumers seek eco-friendly options and the U.S. government tightens emission standards for powerboats. Intrepid Powerboats of Dania Beach unveiled a center console at the Miami International Boat Show that can use either natural gas or a mix of natural gas and conventional fuel to power its outboard motors. The natural-gas system was developed by Blue Gas Marine, based in Apex, NC. “Natural gas burns cleaner than conventional fuels and generally costs 50 percent to 70 percent less. The natural gas for the Intrepid hybrids can be used either in compressed or liquid form,” Hemlock explained.

Propane, with similar clean-burning and cost-saving qualities as natural gas, has been the alternative fuel of choice for Innovation and Green Award recipient Lehr Outboards, which upped its horsepower offerings to 25 hp. in Miami. While the company has focused on the small end of the outboard spectrum because that’s where the volume is, notes CEO/Founder Bernardo Herzer, there’s a future in higher powered models as the acceptance of propane grows.

Beneteau also has teamed up with an early adopter of marine electric propulsion, Elco, which offers small electric outboards and 70- and 100-hp. electric inboards. The collaboration produced a prototype hybrid electric/diesel inboard propulsion system using a 20-hp. Elco electric motor and a 425-hp. Cummins diesel inboard installed on a Beneteau Swift Trawler 34. Tested by Soundings Trade Only writer Chris Landry, he reported the boat can reach a top speed of 20 knots under diesel power and can cruise at 5 to 6 knots under electric-only power. A 12-unit AGM battery bank powers the electric engine, which can be operated for up to two to three hours before it needs charging.

On the high side of electric/diesel, Dutch builder Feadship in January launched the 83.50-meter (273’11”) Savannah, claimed to be the first superyacht to feature an eco-friendly blend of single diesel engine, three gensets, batteries, propeller, azimuting thruster and a streamlined hull shape. The propulsion package and hull design is said to offer fuel economies of 30 percent. “It is not the individual technologies used on Savannah that are new in the yachting world – it is the way they have been combined,” says the owner’s project manager, Ted McCumber.

Not to be outdone, builder Oceanco offered a design concept for its Stiletto at the Dubai International Boat Show in early March. The 353-foot (107.7-meter) Stiletto bears a 50’2’ (15.3-meter) beam. editors offered, “Stiletto has a hybrid propulsion system which is optimized for various operating conditions, perfectly matching her hybrid hull shape which is designed for low resistance and a slender underwater hull shape. … Reduction of harmful exhaust emissions, wasted energy re-use, and silent operational capabilities, as well as the low overall propulsion power required in comparison to conventional motor yachts, make this concept one of the more optimized, greener and radical conceptualizations to emerge this year.”

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