Published on January 27th, 2021 |
by Derek Markham
January 27th, 2021 by Derek Markham
When thinking of Volkswagen, yachts probably aren’t anywhere close to being on the short list of possible topics to come up, but that may be changing soon, thanks to a new partnership with a solar yacht manufacturer, Silent-Yachts, to incorporate VW’s MEB electric drive system into its newest model, the Silent Yacht 50.
We briefly covered Silent-Yachts’ solar powered electric hybrid catamarans back in 2019, and although most of us are probably not in the market for an ocean-going yacht just yet (but if we were, then we’d go for solar electric over diesel any day, amirite?), electric propulsion on the water is just as relevant as our coverage of electric cars and bikes and airplanes, so this announcement definitely deserves some love from CleanTechnica.
Being from the high desert, where a tiny creek is a “river” and likely to disappear underground for months out of the year, I had to actually look up the definition of yacht versus catamaran, because to me they’re all boats unless they’re canoes or rafts, in which case those gravity-powered crafts are worth referring to specifically by name. But I did my due diligence with the magic Google, which told me that a yacht is “a medium-sized sailboat equipped for cruising or racing,” (where’s the dang sail on a solar yacht, I wonder?) and that a catamaran is simply one with multiple hulls (I totally knew that). So now that that’s settled, other than I guess that it’s possible to have no sails on a sailboat/yacht (?) as long as it’s a catamaran, let’s move on…
Similar to what an RV must be on land, but much more so, a watercraft — by any name — that is intended for long voyages on the ocean must be equipped to power itself (and everything onboard) far from any sort of fueling/charging access. So having a solar-charged electric propulsion system, along with enough battery storage to handle onboard tasks, is a brilliant way to traverse the watery world. Not only are electric drive systems virtually silent compared to diesel engines, and absent the foul smells and carbon emissions of ICE-powered boats, but the ability to “refuel” every single sunny day — for free — is quite the asset for a long voyage. And considering the absence of the annoying thrum of onboard gas or diesel generators normally used to cover additional onboard electric needs when not under power, it’s likely that an electric boat like a Silent-Yachts catamaran is the most peaceful way to spend time on the water.
According to an interview with Michael Köhler, CEO of Silent-Yachts, the advantages of solar yachts are many:
“Most yacht owners or charterers want to get from A-to-B quickly, B should at the same time not be far from A and the trip to the next bay or island should not take more than an hour. Such distances can be easily completed with electric drives. A trip with an electric yacht works something like this: You sail to your favorite bay and go for a swim. During that time, the solar panels charge the batteries. After the swim, you cruise back to the mooring and you haven’t wasted any fuel, you haven’t polluted the environment, and you’ve just enjoyed the peace and quiet. This is the sustainable comfort that we, together with Volkswagen and CUPRA, promise to everyone who steps aboard with us. And all this with basically unlimited range. If the e-range is used up, the built-in diesel generator steps in in an emergency.”
Of course there’s a diesel backup, because the middle of the ocean is not the place to be without any backup power at all (tho I still wonder why there aren’t any sails on this yacht, because backup is backup, amirite?), so there’s still a fossil-fueled engine to be maintained and fueled. At any rate, electric boats are a viable solution for low carbon maritime travel, and with this new agreement, Silent-Yachts could very well be the next hot thing to acquire, right after an electric supercar.
When combined with the leverage of Volkswagen, which seems to have successfully parlayed its culpability in the massive dieselgate scandal into an opportunity to reinvent itself as a cleaner greener automaker with its electric vehicles and electric drivetrain engineering, the e-Yacht (I just made that up) industry just might be ready to take the plunge into more zero- and low-carbon solutions for traveling the oceans. And it’s happening, according to Volkswagen Group, because its latest agreement with Silent-Yachts and CUPRA promises to bring an MEB-powered solar catamaran to the docks in 2022, and “at least 50 of the MEB-based “Silent Yacht 50” are to be produced” annually, with other Volkswagen components also being installed “in all other Silent-Yachts models.”
“… Silent-Yachts is relying on Volkswagen’s MEB. Because the platform is used millions of times throughout the electric cars of the Volkswagen Group, there are economies of scale to be gained – the yacht can be produced more cheaply. In addition, maintenance and servicing are reduced compared to a conventional yacht, as the electric drive system is less susceptible to repair than conventional engines.
“From Silent-Yacht’s point of view, this is an understandable decision – but why is Volkswagen now getting involved in yacht building? In this way, the Group wants to further increase enthusiasm for electromobility, demonstrate the technological strengths of its platform, and show that driving pleasure, long ranges, quiet cruising, and clean mobility are also possible on the high seas.
“The MEB powertrain is not only powerful and quiet, whilst providing low vibrations. The MEB batteries, produced with green electricity, also improve the CO2 balance of the entire means of transport. In all Silent-Yachts models, a diesel generator is still available as a backup in case of emergency.” – VW
Learn more about Silent-Yachts at the company website.
Via Mashable India
Complete our 3-minute reader survey!
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica member, supporter, or ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
Sign up for our free daily newsletter to never miss a story.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Latest CleanTech Talk Episode
About the Author
Derek Markham Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!