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The quiet revolution

An electric revolution is already well underway in the car industry – & now it’s heading to sea
The quiet revolution

This article first appeared in our Health Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 24 July 2020. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Combustion engines are already prohibited on some European lakes, and restrictions will only increase over the coming years.

‘In Ibiza thousands of boats visit during the summer, from superyachts to ‘normal’ yachts’, says James Blanchfield, director of Santa Eulalia Yachting (S.E. Yachting) in Marina Santa Eulalia, Ibiza.

‘Most of them are powered by fossil fuels with combustion engines’, James continues. ‘All these engines hold a large quantity of oil; that oil must be replaced annually as a condition of the engine warranty, so I can only guess the number of litres that amounts to every year – in the Balearics alone!’

The control of yachting emissions has become an important topic at annual conferences, and in March the need for more environmentally friendly plans was a key focus at the eighth Asociación Nacional de Empresas Naúticas (ANEN) meeting in Valencia.

Protecting our waters

Electric yachts are becoming an increasingly popular choice for those whose love for the ocean extends to the life it holds and the peace it brings.

James has always loved the sea; two years ago he was given an opportunity to combine this passion with his background in the luxury yachting business. He was asked to become Spain’s official and exclusive dealer of SAY Carbon Yachts, and to set up a network to supply electric, low-emission and high-acceleration carbon yachts.

Giving something back

Karl Wagner, SAY Carbon Yachts’ CEO, is a leading mind in innovation and contemporary design. Before turning his attention to yachts, his carbon tech expertise was applied to sports cars and Formula 1.

‘I was immediately taken with his vision’, James reveals. ‘This was the perfect moment. I saw the demand – especially here on Ibiza – to give something back to the island, to protect our waters in this wonderful and peaceful place. People want to enjoy their lives and have fun, and at the same time be aware and conscious. With our SAY Carbon Yachts they can enjoy luxury yachting while exploring Ibiza and lowering their emissions.’

The SAY 29E Carbon

The SAY 29E Carbon is the world’s fastest production-built electric boat; with a maximum speed of 89km/h it holds the 2019 world speed record of 48kn, without competition. ‘That’s very fast – even for a non-electric boat’, James tells us.

The boat has a unique, minimalist design and a hydrodynamic hull. It has been manufactured using the latest tech in Germany, with drive technology from e-mobility developer Kreisel Electric.

The carbon hull offers the same stability as a standard hull but with fewer materials; this translates to less weight and better efficiency, which in turn means lower emissions in production as well as at sea.

The silence of battery-powered transport is arguably even more rewarding at sea than on the road. All you hear is the sound of water splashing against the hull; that’s followed by instant acceleration, just like the experience with high-performance electric cars.

Electric yachts are currently a lot more expensive to buy or charter – daily prices for the SAY 29E start at €1.400 in winter and €1.680 in summer – but this is due to the cost of the technology required.

As electric yachts’ production costs fall, so too will the cost of experiencing one. ‘Our prices also differ from the average charter company’s because VAT, a captain, local beverages and vegan towels are included in the price’, James explains, ‘and of course, there are no fuel charges!’

SAY 29E Carbon
SAY 29E Carbon

Charging at marinas

As with an electric car, if you’re planning a long journey in an electric yacht then you’ll need to make sure your battery is fully charged.

‘As with any other fossil fuel vessel, the faster you go the lower the range’, James tells us. ‘But with an average cruising speed of 22kn a full charge will take you 35-40 nautical miles, which is enough for nipping over to Formentera and back.’

All modern marinas have sufficient current to charge the SAY 29E for five to six hours; Kreisel Electric, which provides the technology, recently introduced a boost-charger that will charge the SAY 29E in under an hour.

‘The electric yacht charging network is still not comparable with the electric car world’s’, James says. ‘The installation of fast chargers is a very expensive process but an attractive future investment. This infrastructure needs to be supported;  S.E. Yachting is talking with luxury marinas in Ibiza and Formentera to create fast charger possibilities to support electric yachting, and provide a fast charging solution for frequently used routes.’

The nautical revolution

The technology for electric yachts is constantly evolving – especially when it comes to the batteries. As they improve, so will the range.

‘Hydrogen is already being used on superyachts and hybrid propulsion on luxury motoryachts’, James tells us. ‘The future is certainly to steer away from fossil fuels; over the next five years we will see a big change in marine regulations.’

Low-emission yachts are already popular in the lakes in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and America is a huge market for electric yachting. And of course, James is helping to create the market in Spain.

‘Ibiza’s residents and visitors are the ideal clients to support us’, James tells us, ‘not just with financial possibilities, but also with the vision and motivation to support our electrifying revolution to preserve Ibiza’s seas and nature.’

In 2019 James noticed a growing demand for electric yachts, and saw the electric revolution was making an impact on the nautical sector. He observed a growing group of people who like to be pioneers in electric high-performance yachting, who love design and want to lead the way.

‘The electric nautical revolution has started’, James says, ‘and we’re lucky to be a forerunner. As the technology improves, the propulsions throughout the global yachting industry will evolve, too.’

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