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july 15, 2019 - Solar & Energy Boat Challenge

The future is one common technology platform for green mobility between cars, bikes airplanes and boats - The yachting industry will be soon greener than the car industry thanks to the hydrogen revolution

This are the main messages to the industry that come from the event held in Monaco last week.
The meeting was the perfect opportunity to highlight and put into practice solutions for sustainable yachting, the result of years of Research & Development. Organised in partnership with the International Powerboating Federation (UIM) and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the 6th edition of a #competition that is unique in the world and which attracted 34 teams (14 nationalities) offers a glimpse of the future in which everyone are winners: researchers, academics, engineering students, and professionals working in the yachting and energy sectors. All are committed to developing and testing credible alternatives to fossil fuels to shape the future of propulsion for the boats of tomorrow.

An incubator that puts the spotlight on developments taking place, the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge 2019 is very much in line with the vision of Yacht Club de Monaco President HSH Prince Albert II, who came to meet exhibitors and encourage contestants: “Training and educating our young #people, their development, creativity, awareness and involvement are the guarantors of a better future (...). Let us give them a chance, give them all the tools they need to succeed and above all put our trust in them.”

One common technology platform

Besides the competitions and the exhibition of new powertrain solutions, a very interesting part of the event has been represented by the technical presentations by leading experts of the field and the Tech Talks by each team to present the highlights of their racing boat.
The experts focused their attention on two main topics:

- Sustainable management and development within the maritime environment
- Sustainability and energy efficiency – current trends and future developments in the yachting industry. The technical sessions were concluded by the third UIM International Workshop on nautical sports and the environment organized by the International Powerboating Association. President #raffaelechiulli said: “We are promoting the creation of a common platform for #green motorsport to unite the efforts of all disciplines: cars, bikes, airplanes and powerboating. On one side everyone would benefit from the synergies, on the other we believe that the champions of each discipline are the best ambassadors to spread the messages and values of sustainability. We’ll do everything in our power to change the mindset.”
Lucas Di Grassi, ABB Formula E World Champion, said: “I’m super proud to see the Yacht Club de Monaco is doing this electric and solar boat challenge. Good luck, I’ll be watching and hopefully drive one of these boats.”

Technology transfer from #automotive to powerboating

BMW for instance, is already heavily engaged in both electric car racing and powerboating. The German brand has been a major partner of Formula E since 2014 and provides batteries to the German company Torqeedo, 200 employees and a product range of electric engines up to 200 kW. As Christian Ballin, CEO of Torqueedo, points out: “The highest electric engine penetration is in buses, with 19%, followed by passenger cars (2%) and boats (1.9%), while trucks are below 1% and air transport is a zero. China leads the electric revolution and forecast say 80% of buses will be electric by 2030, while electric passengers cars will be more than 50% by 2040. In the nautical sector, were numbers are much smaller, Torqeedo leads the market with more then 90,000 propulsion systems in the field.”

Speed record through lightweight

Anvera Elab of Misano Adriatico set the new speed record for electric boats at the stunning speed of 74.49 km/hr, beating the previous record set in 2016 of 49.10 km/hr. Luca Ferrari, team leader of Anvera Elab: “Our strategic approach is lightweight. In all our production boats we strive for reduced weight, reduced power, reduced consumption and more speed. One of our partners is Tecnoelettra of Vignola (Modena) which also supplies Italian Formula 1 and MotoGP teams.”

Also focusing on lightweight and carbonfiber is Persico, as Operations Director Thomas Gaveriaux highlighted. Persico, now a leader in racing hulls supplying ocean races and the America’s Cup, started in 1976 as an #automotive supplier.

Vita Yachts of Scotland won the Offshore Endurance Race and team leader Adrian Gusman says: “We use #automotive technology, for instance the super chargers, and of course we too have Formula 1 engineers in our team.”

Economy of scale and environmental challenges

The event in Monaco was an excellent opportunity to present many different innovations and discuss the advantages and the difficulties of the maritime industry.
Ugo Bertelli, former admiral of the Italian Navy and team leader of Blu.e Matrix, thinks that the nautical industry is far from real innovation at industrial level and the main reason are low volumes and low standardization: “Even if Italy is a world leader, very few shipyards are really innovative beyond design and interiors. All major changes in powertrain come from the #automotive research. Renault is engineering dashboards for boats for instance.”

For professor Paolo Schito, Engineering Faculty of Milan, another difficulty comes from the marine environment: “No boat can leverage energy recovery since there is no braking at sea and propulsion requires much more effort in the water than on the road.” Despite this, the Politecnico participated with the Polimi racing boat in the Offshore Class.

Last but not least, pessimists see the point of reliability and safety. Whereas a failure or a battery low can be coped with on an urban road, at sea you better go with long time tested and simple systems. As experienced sailor say: “What is not there, does not break.”

The hydrogen revolution

But there is another perspective, more in line with the spirit of the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge. #dariocalzavara leads a research company called Terra Modena, worked with Ferrari before turning to yachting and engineered the new zero-emission Jury Boat of the Yacht Club de Monaco: “We are at a cornerstone which will lead us to a revolution. The technology to use hydrogen at sea is ready and in the next decade the nautical industry will outbeat the car industry. The Anvera Electric Boat has proven to be fast and with already a great autonomy for a tender or a chase boat, Vita Power is a prestigious boat, other shipyards are coming. A second point to consider is that there is dramatic difference between cruising in open sea and closed waters: for European rivers and lakes the sustainable mobility is reality. Third, nobody should underestimate the powering infrastructures: Vita’s project to equip the whole Cote d’Azur with recharging columns will give a boost to electric boat diffusion.”

Marco Casiraghi, the man behind the event, agrees: “It’s more a question of attitude. We already have robust, easy and convenient technologies to reduce environmental costs. If they are not applied two reasons are to blame: lack of knowledge and business as usual. To change this we need a strong communication towards the final client so that they become more demanding towards the industry.”

A virtuous combination of efforts

On one side there are large organizations like Energy Observer and SBM Offshore are implementing olistic approaches which include infrastructures, processes, logistic.

Jeremie Laguarrigue, CEO of Energy Observer and Technical Advisor to the YCM for sustainable yachting, points out “that 90% of all goods is transported by boat and changing the way ships are moved would have a significant impact on the environment.”

On the other side, the enthusiasm of hundred of students. Like the Formula SAE is the passionate and creative meeting for the young researchers in the car sector, the #mcsebc is the unique opportunity for students in the boating.
Bernard D’Alessandri, Secretary General of YCM, says: “Watching these young men and girls working hard until late at night, fighting for fixing the last screw and be proud when putting their boat into the water is something which fills your heart and makes you believe that a sustainable future can be at hand. We are looking forward to the next edition, from June 30 to July 4, when for the first time we will also have a team from China.”