GOING GREEN ON THE BIG BLUE: LUXURY YACHTING INDUSTRY SAILS TOWARD AN ECO-FRIENDLY FUTURE

Nothing quite spoils a relaxing cruise on the ocean like the noise of massive diesel engines down below. It’s not just about the racket though, the marine industry might have avoided being targeted in the same way as the automotive industry but it is still conscious of environmental issues, such as emissions, and is looking at ways it can change through new technology.

A report by research group IDTechEx says every container ship emits the same amount of CO2 as 75,000 cars. That’s a startling statistic and one to which many are starting to pay attention. But it’s not just commercial vessels — the luxury yachting industry is also entering a period of transformation.

Just as yachts come in all shapes, sizes and prices, so too do the options to go green on the blue. Some builders are developing hybrid setups, which work particularly well for long-distance luxury yachts. Using a combination of a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor, hybrid provides distance as well as the ability to cruise silently in the harbour in electric mode. Electric also means you can switch off the polluting side of the engine when you are in an environmentally sensitive area, like a coral reef.

One company offering this solution is Maverick Yachts in Cape Town. The Maverick 440 hybrid is a catamaran which offers three cruising options: an electrically operated sail, an electric motor and a diesel engine. Cleverly, this sailing yacht is also fitted with 1,340W solar panels, which can be used to top up the 42kW lithium-ion batteries.

But what about full electric power? Admittedly, the prospect of running out of charge in the middle of the ocean is daunting but electric power is generally being used for luxury motor boats – it’s perfect for cruising close to the coast or along the Vaal River.

Boatbuilders around the world are using existing technology from the automotive industry to create solutions on the water. Some are using Tesla batteries, others the power from the batteries BMW uses in its i3. Frank Stephenson, the famous designer of the BMW Mini and a number of McLaren models, even designed, and then commissioned, his own electric motor boat to cruise on the River Thames.