Sweden’s Arcona Yachts has announced that their new Arcona 415 has Oceanvolt electric propulsion as a standard feature, a first for series-produced sailing yachts.
Having electric as standard on a boat like the 415 marks a big change. Now it means that potential owners would have to specifically ask about diesel as an option, which then requires comparing its pros and cons to electric. Arcona obviously thinks most will go with the clean, quiet, zero emission system.
“Electric is here to stay” says Urban Lagnéus, Arcona Yachts CEO. “The ability to spend your leisure time at sea without emissions, and yet gain advantages in comfort and performance, opens up a new world of opportunities for our normal usage. Our cruisers sail beautifully in any conditions, but in light winds and close to marinas, if you need to use the engine, electric propulsion is the way forward.”
Electric propulsion that recharges itself
To provide the motors and electric system the company turned to Oceanvolt, which was founded in 2004 by avid sailor Janne Kjellman and is a pioneer in zero emission propulsion for sailboats.
Their modular AXC series lets the user ‘stack’ motors to build power configurations of 10kW, 20kW, 30kW or 40kW and their patented ServoProp variable pitch sail drive was a 2017 category winner in the prestigious DAME awards that recognize the best-designed products in each year’s METSTRADE nautical trade show.
It is the ServoProp with hydroregeneration that will be the standard on the Arcona 415, using a 15kW system and 19kWh battery pack. In hydro regeneration (sometimes called just regeneration or ‘regen’) the electric motor can be instantly converted to an electricity-generating turbine that is turned by the ServoProp propeller while the boat is under wind power. That electricity is then stored in the system’s battery pack for later use.
One of the keys for regen is achieving enough speed to get the propeller turning, and the Arcona yachts are well suited to the task. The boatyard is known for ‘cruiser-racers’ which are designed to perform well in racing when the pilot has an expert team aboard, but also be comfortable, safe and easy to sail for relaxed family cruising.
Lagnéus says “The sleek and light hull design works extraordinarily well with electric propulsion, however our customers have seen the hydro regeneration commence when the yacht is sailing at a speed as low as 3.3 knots.”
Crossing the Atlantic with zero emissions
Arcona is also a pioneer in electric propulsion. It already has the largest fleet of electric sailboats on the water, the first being the Arcona 380Z (for Zero emission) launched in 2015. In 2019 Graham Balch of Green Yacht Sales wrote about What it’s Like to Cross the Atlantic Ocean in an Electric Sailboat. You can read the whole story »» on the Green Yachts site, but here’s a teaser:
As our journey continued, we usually entered port with 50% or more of our battery bank due to our combination of using the motor less and hydroregenerating energy back into the battery bank. For example, we did use the Arcona 435Z motor for a long-time to get out of a dead zone of wind leaving the Canary Islands, getting down to around 20%, but through hydroregeneration, we ended up getting back up to 90% and pulling into Bermuda with over 50% charge in our battery bank.
And (spoiler alert):
“Would I do it again? Crossing the ocean in an electric sailboat was so enjoyable compared to a sailboat with a diesel engine, I would never want to cross the ocean with a diesel engine ever again (pretty similar to how most Tesla owner feels about the idea of going back to driving a gas car).”
The beginning of the beginning
Sailing boat owners have been some of the first to adopt electric propulsion over the past decade, with a big reason most likely being that many sailors like sailing for the very reason that they prefer silence and fresh air to the sounds and odours of diesel and gasoline motors.
Many owners have converted boats themselves, with motors from companies like Oceanvolt, Fischer-Panda, Bellmarine, Thoosa and others (check the Plugboats Guide to Electric Saildrives and Pods and the Marketplace of Electric Motors).
A growing number of builders have been offering electric propulsion as an option, and the number of manufacturers doing so is increasing almost daily. In February Elan yachts was the first to offer electric as an option across its entire fleet, and an Electric Sailboat category was started in this year’s Gustave Trouvé Awards. You can see the nominees »» here
Electric propulsion as the standard feature is the next important step in the transition away from fossil fuels.
As Arcona’s Lagnéus says: “The benefits of electric propulsion are numerous; not having an exhaust and the elimination therefore of emissions, the ongoing cost saving vs. fuelling up with diesel, the minimized operating noise and vibrations, the increased space for living, the complete power management, the ease of use and maintenance, and having an overall lighter weight thus increased performance.”
“We can all do our bit to combat climate change, and to be the first yacht builders with zero emission propulsion as a standard is an important step towards further enjoyment of sailing the Arcona way.”