Hybrids & New Technology
Finding the right balance between traditional diesel engines, electric and hydro-generators, batteries, wind and solar panels and the propulsion and on-board servicing requirements.
Yachting is lagging far behind other industries when it comes to putting into practice and making use of electric and other innovative or renewable energies, but that is hardly surprising given the wide spectrum of sizes, uses and lower manufacturing numbers of yachts compared to cars, for example.
Cruising smoothly, quietly, cost efficiently while leaving the smallest impact on the environment or consuming natural resources are highly desirable aspirations for most owners and yachtsmen nowadays. If you can add to that being able to run or anchor silently at night and have power for air conditioning, refrigeration etc. you have discovered yachting heaven.
Using only the power required at any given time while underway or at anchor is now more feasible with adequately sized generators that can be placed throughout a yacht to provide more flexible space and weight distribution. This in turn is allowing internal and accommodation layouts to change and allow for other features where the main engines would have been located, normally amidships or aft.
We can certainly expect to see more research and development of hybrid and electric propelled yachts in the future. Widespread legislation is or will soon be in place to ensure that will happen in many places. It is not only the power sources themselves that are becoming more efficient with accompanying batteries that will be lighter, more durable and efficient. Hull design, variable pitch propellers, azipod thrusters, shaft generators and appendages, electric motors and variable speed generators are all being researched in order to provide more efficient or ultimately zero-emissions cruising.
Diesel is the only fuel used by most larger yachts, but alternative fuels are being researched constantly. Shipyards, designers and owners are keen to breakthrough and several yachts are already regarded as being very fuel and power efficient. Hydrogen fuel cells look to be the most promising but liquified natural gas (LNG) may be the closest to meeting new regulations and price efficiency. Yet neither of them will be commonplace in the near future and each has its own drawbacks.
But what of the future of yachts themselves? What will they look like? Will some yachts really be submersible to over 250 metres and offer similar creature comforts? If you search the internet there are many amazing ideas and concepts on drawing boards or under construction.
One of the most desirable aspects of yachting is that you can have your dream and build it, as long as it can be designed and built, it will be safe and complies with regulations. That leaves a lot of scope to the imagination!