- Technology - Catamaran hints at path to full-electric

By SuperyachtNews

Catamaran hints at path to full-electric

SuperyachtNews talks to ‘E’ project co-creator, Tomasz Piekarec…

‘E’, the first chartered catamaran with a fully electric propulsion system, has recently embarked on its first voyage further to its launch at the 2019 Cannes Yachting Festival. E has been designed in partnership with Sunreef Yachts for the environmentally-conscious passenger.

The world’s first Sunreef 60 has a high-powered electric propulsion system and allows guests onboard the 60ft eco-catamaran to enjoy a luxurious sailing experience while reportedly causing minimal impact on the waters they travel.

E’s founders have set out with a vision to change the face of the yachting industry and inspire change in order to protect the oceans. While an exclusively electric-powered superyacht may still be bobbing on the distant horizon for our industry, we could think of the e-catamaran as the electric scooter to our electric car – a vital catalyst for change on a larger scale, inspiring ideas of how this technology could translate into larger vessels.

E is powered by hydrogeneration and solar power. Two high-performance 55kW electric engines generate power from wind whilst sailing, charging the 140 kWh propulsion battery bank, which provides for up to six hours of cruising on engines.

E is the first sailing catamaran to be fitted with curved solar panels on the carbon bimini for increased efficiency and aesthetics, which feed electricity into the 16kWh house battery bank, providing clean energy supply to sustain all the yacht's needs. For safety and regulatory reasons, there is a backup 90kW diesel generator.

It is not only the electric aspect of E that we should take inspiration from – the catamaran also encourages guests to take in their surroundings, and offers the opportunity to assist in marine research projects thanks to the team on board. 

“First of all [the E founders] are a group of people that have a passion for sailing, we had a sailing catamaran which we used with friends and relations,” begins Tomasz Piekarec, project co-creator. “E is not our core business, but is rather a passion project that we are keen to use as a vehicle to send out the message that sailing and chartering can be done with more care for the Earth.”

“E is not our core business, but is rather a passion project that we are keen to use as a vehicle to send out the message that sailing and chartering can be done with more care for the Earth” - Tomasz Piekarec, Project Co-Creator - E

Alongside Piekarec is the catamaran’s Captain, John Esslinger, and chef and crewmember, Marcin Nowicki. “We also have a marine biologist on the team, to help us learn about the possible marine research projects available to us. Having worked on the Sea Shepherd project, he is interested in sailing and marine conservation,” says Piekarec, illustrating the additional knowledge that guests will receive, culminating in an unmissable experience. “I have also now qualified as a professional crewmember,” he continues, alongside a team of stand-ins being developed for the charters that take place.

“Travel is not only about moving through time and space, but also about moving out of your comfort zone and out of your routine… doing the extraordinary!”, Piekarec explains. It is likely that the client who chooses to charter with E will be interested in the additional environmental benefits of the project, be that knowledge, discovery or proximity to nature.

One of the key benefits of an electric propulsion system is the near-silent resulting noise pollution, and while there is still the subtle humming of electric propellers and motors, this has actually added value to the journeys on E. The catamaran is attracting dolphins, and thus, the team are working with researchers who are undertaking a project to decipher the language of dolphins. Piekarec and his team are providing the researchers with recordings from the dolphins’ natural habitats, which could lead to a breakthrough, and further the ways in which E is giving back.

At The Superyacht Design Forum (12 – 14 May), we will be considering ‘Planet Superyacht’, kick-starting discussions about how our industry is using the Earth’s resources differently in relation to the increasingly ethical future for superyacht design.

E’s values are rooted in environmental sustainability, but it is also intended to be a luxury yachting experience. The exterior and interior designs have been thoroughly thought through in order to maximise efficiency and reduce the vessel’s resulting carbon footprint.

A question that SuperyachtNews was keen to ask Piekarec was on the subject of ‘sustainable teak’, noted on E’s website. “The teak that has been used on board is reclaimed teak. It is sustainable in the sense that it is not fresh from the plantation; it is second-life teak,” he explains. While teak alternatives are, of course, widely available, many are made from plastics, and many involve a creation process using chemicals and materials that somewhat reverse their eco-friendly claims. I would argue, therefore, that second-life teak is indeed a suitable material for the eco-catamaran to be using, and is likely to be a trend that peaks over the next five to 10 years of yacht design when engaging with increasingly environmentally-conscious consumers. 

 “Throughout the design process, there was an open dialogue between ourselves and Sunreef,” Piekarec added. “For example, Sunreef were keen for solar panels to be on board, but instead of having flat panels, we optimised their design to benefit the aesthetics of the catamaran,” he continues, noting the curved finish of the panels. “In order to be a true trailblazer you have to push some boundaries and inspire others. The nice thing about our partnership with Sunreef was that they were able to transform our idea, using their technical capacity, and make it into a reality.”

As the desire for new experiences continues to flourish in the UHNW market, E may prove to provide just that, but with the added environmentally conscious elements that many young charterers will be reassured by. “On an individual level you can do something to show that you care, and we are encouraging guests to behave in a more responsible way.”

“On an individual level you can do something to show that you care, and we are encouraging guests to behave in a more responsible way” - Tomasz Piekarec, Project Co-Creator - E

At The Superyacht Design Forum (12-14 May) we will be providing a platform for additional examples of technology being developed and used in various industries that could lead to a full-electric future for the 30m+ yacht market, in order to facilitate a vital conversation during a sustainably-centric decade. Register your interest for TSDF 2020 here.

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