We hear a lot about hybrid automobiles, how they have been improving, and are becoming a more mainstream alternative to gas and diesel vehicles for many drivers. What about yacht engines? Are there hybrid motor yachts?
There are! And while hybrid marine engines still have some catching up to do to before they are as common as cars, breakthroughs in hybrid marine propulsion continues.
A Matter of Physics
Developing hybrid propulsion for boats is bit more challenging than for cars. So, finding practical ways to wean them off of gas engines or diesel engines is going to take a lot more time and advances in technology, than it has for cars. Cars have an inherent advantage. When braking or coasting, the momentum of the vehicle can charge the batteries, essentially “for free.” Not so on a boat. A boat is up against the constant resistance of the water, as it slows, it loses speed, and ceases to make headway, and boats do not brake, nor go up and down hills.
As naval architect, Dave Gerr, speaking recently to Power and Motoryacht Magazine put it, “Land vehicles get regeneration when they brake and coast downhill, they also spend an awful lot of time in traffic, at idle speed, just creeping along at two or three miles an hour. And depending on the type of hybrid system they have, they virtually shut down or truly shut down the internal combustion engine when they’re running incredibly inefficiently—so there’s a tremendous saving there. Boats don’t really do any of those things ever.”
That is not to say that hybrid power is not impossible for power boats and motor yachts, it is just a bit more of an uphill battle. One way that marine hybrid innovators are making up for the lack of regenerative power, is with solar. Solar panels are ideal for charging boat batteries, as they spend a good deal of time under very intense sun!
Current Hybrid Systems Available
While there are a few concept solar yachts and experimental projects involving hybridization using solar power, there are some hybrid yachts currently available that are using a combination of diesel engines and electric engines. The diesel engine charges the batteries of the electric engine much like a diesel generator. One of these is the Italian Mochi Craft Long Range 23. Mochi Craft is part of the Ferretti Yacht Group, and was developed by Ferretti’s Advanced Yacht Technology division. The LR23 has been on the market for almost five years years now. Hybrid propulsion systems like this one not only reduce the hours on the diesel engine, and reduce the costs of fuel and the overall carbon footprint of the boat, they have the added advantage of being able to make headway silently, without typical diesel fumes, when running off of the electric motor.
The Mochi is almost 75 feet, and has all of the amenities you would expect to find on other motor yachts in its class.
Other hybrids currently for sale, and in development also use the diesel electric combination, but unlike the Mochi, the diesel engine is not connected to the drive shaft and cannot be used to propel the craft. The diesel only is used to charge the batteries of the electric motor, which provides the only power for propulsion.
Most current hybrid technology is only practical for motor yachts under 80ft, the gross weight of larger yachts still making diesel engines the most viable means of power. However, research continues, and last year the New York Times reported on the launch of one of the world’s first hybrid superyachts, the 274-foot Savannah built by the Dutch ship builder Feadship. Feadship says, “Savannah has been such a success that we have been getting orders for more hybrid megayachts, which will start being delivered in 2018.”
With names like Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren embracing hybrid vehicles, and proving they can be faster and a lot sexier than a Prius, it is only a matter of time until more and more builders of luxury yachts come to the same conclusions.
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.