Fossil fuels are being „booted out“ with increasing success. Beneteau, the world’s largest boat builder, and Torqeedo, the global market leader for electric outboards, have joined forces to achieve this with the ProHybrid Excess 15 project. Their goal is an electric marine propulsion system for sailboats that is powered entirely from renewable sources on board. The boat for this is the Excess 15 catamaran from Beneteau’s latest multihull boat series.
The first intermediate target, which has now been unveiled during the Cannes Yachting Festival 2021, still uses a hybrid propulsion system. It consists of an electric motor and a diesel generator. But the catamaran from Beneteau’s Excess range, with Torqeedo’s Deep Blue hybrid system, is as close to zero-emission and self-sufficient „motors“ as ocean-going yachts can currently get at most.
Torqeedo CEO Ralf Plieninger, Damien Jacob, Sailboat Product Director at Beneteau and Hervé Piveteau, product manager Excess © Kerstin Zillmer
Hervé Piveteau, product manager at Excess, is overseeing the project and lists the benefits: First, he mentions the boat’s quietness and better maneuverability under motor. That’s because the Torqeedo drives are Saildrives, created in collaboration with ZF. „The second thing that stands out is how powerful the two BMW lithium-ion batteries are,“ Piveteau says.
Besonders hat den Produktmanager überrascht, wie viel Energie der Hydrogenerator produziert. Beim ersten Testsegeln konnten in 24 Stunden 75 % der verbrauchten Energie wieder in das System eingespeist werden. Und das, obwohl das Energiemanagement noch nicht wirklich optimiert war. Auch das ist ein großer Vorteil: Der Stromverbrauch kann nun sehr genau gemessen, geplant und kontrolliert werden. Das regt bei den Benutzern ein neues Energiebewusstsein an.
The clear, well-designed display shows consumption levels © Kerstin Zillmer
Energy management can now be planned © Kerstin Zillmer
The display shows where power is currently flowing © Kerstin Zillmer
The silent drive makes „a different kind of sailing“ possible, he says. „We call it hybrid sailing. With the engine running at low speed, you can support the wind power without losing the appeal of sailing. It’s a very efficient combination of sail and motor.“ Sailing with little wind under power, without hearing or smelling the engine, leads to a new kind of sailing, Piveteau is convinced. It means more sailing on further distances. Why this.
One motor is located at the helm in each stern © Kerstin Zillmer
The BMWi3 batteries are under the beds © Kerstin Zillmer
Underway at around seven knots of speed, the regenerative green energy system harvests enough energy from the spinning propeller to provide basic power for the onboard electrical system. To become even more independent of the generator, solar panels are planned for the next phase of the project.
The system is still being tested. Is range the most important thing, or is it quietness? Or the speed? These are the questions Beneteau Shipyard will be asking its customers, dealers and engineers in the coming months to put together the most efficient system. After all, there’s a big difference between needing only five minutes of engine power to sail on a lake in Switzerland. Or whether you want to cross the Atlantic with a cat.
The Excess 15 is the first in a series of hybrid vessels with which Beneteau aims to reduce the carbon footprint of its boats. For Torqeedo, the project is a breakthrough. This is because the world’s largest boat builder is targeting a class of boats with the new project that are much more common than Torqeedo’s previous lighthouse projects, the noble yachts Spirit 111 and Privilege 5 or the Rudder Drive on the Hanse 315.
Phillip Goethe, who is accompanying the project for Torqeedo, is certain: „Projects like the one between Beneteau and us will determine the future of shipping.“