The new Voltaire 33 Sky electric power catamaran couples electric propulsion with a flax-fibre composite hull to bring sustainability to every aspect of its function and design.
It comes from a new company entering the electric boat market – Voltaire Yachts – a transatlantic venture with offices in Germany and a production plant in the United States. Founders Florian Nierich and Michael Reardon come from quite different backgrounds, but are equally energetic, entrepreneurial and enthusiastic about the future of fossil free boats.
Nierich first got excited about electric boats in 2016 when he was Marketing and Communications Manager for Hanse Yachts and working on the introduction of the Hanse 315 with its new Torqeedo electric rudder drive concept.
Reardon is a 35 year veteran of composite yacht construction who started out in Australia with carbon fibre pioneers McConaghy Boats. As his career progressed he moved to Europe, working with Greenline Yachts on their early hybrids, then with Gunboat and others, winning himself 36 Boat of The Year awards along the way.
Met through Torqeedo CEO Christophe Ballin
It was during the Hanse launch that the two met, through mutual associate Christophe Ballin, then the active CEO of Torqeedo. When Florian started to put together the team to start his own line of electric boats in 2019, he called Michael.
By that time, Reardon had already partnered with Stefan Muff – creator of the technology for Google Maps and an avid sailor – to start Daedalus Yachts and develop an 80 foot fossil-free wind/water/solar catamaran.
He was also intrigued by the idea of Voltaire and the possibilities outlined, so he signed up as co-founder of Voltaire as well. Plus, the boat would fit in nicely with the capabilities of the Daedalus production yard in Edenton, North Carolina.
Coming from a marketing background, Nierich knew the first thing to nail down was finding out the audience for this electric boat – who would the purchaser be, and what were they looking for? Obviously it was people who are interested in electric propulsion, but what else did they want? How would they want to use an electric boat?
To find out, Voltaire consulted with some of the largest power boat dealers in Europe as well as in Australia – who also happened to be some of Michael’s friends from the McConaghy days – John Cowpe and Peter Hrones of eYachts and the Multihull Group.
Electric power catamaran for day boating
The answer is pretty much the same on the Mediterranean, in Australia and on the US coast – dayboating experiences are what people are looking for.
“They want to go out with a few friends, maybe 3 hours in one direction, anchor in a bay, or beach, some want to drive around fast for 10 minutes, and then come back to shore, not sleep on the boat.” said Nierich. “It’s why power catamarans are so popular, and the Sky 33 is a power cat, but electric.”
With the marketing research and production end sorted out, next thing needed was a designer with fresh ideas, so the call went out to Jonas Hertwig in New York, formerly of the Yacht Design Collective.
“This was a great project to work on” said Hertwig. “When you introduce a new way of propulsion, you can’t use the old designs, so I was given the freedom to ‘shock the market’ with new lines.”
The market research provided valuable input, and led to some innovative features like a full size head – something not seen very often in an open boat this size. There is also a galley so food and beverages can be prepared for everyone to fully enjoy their day, as well as an L-lounge sitting area at the stern and huge platform space to lie around on up front.
Flax-fibre composite hull has look of expensive linen
The last, but certainly not least, part of the full equation is the hull itself, which is made of flax fibre composite.
“For the past 30 years I’ve always been looking for and using lighter materials and cleaner processes” says Michael. “I’ve incorporated recycled materials, done decks with reconstituted paper – and this new flax-fibre composite has very impressive qualities.”
Two years of research went into finding the right sustainable natural fibre and bio epoxy resin combination. Hemp was tried, also bamboo…with the team deciding on flax. It has weight and structural characteristics similar to carbon fibre, the bio resins reduce the amount of of toxic chemicals used in production and it has a natural organic look. Reardon says with a clear resin “It looks similar to expensive linen.”
Enthusiastic reception for electric power cat
The Voltaire Sky 33 brings all of this research – on both marketing and production – together in a sleek electric power catamaran specifically designed for day boating in the target markets: the Mediterranean, Australia, and US coastal waters.
Voltaire isn’t the first company to offer customers a day boat with the stability and spacious deck area that a catamaran provides, of course. For instance there is the Elux modified pontoon boat from Minnesota, the Bagou from France and the inflatable solar powered Electricat from Slovenia but none of these have the speed capabilities of the Sky 33.
Not surprisingly, considering the Christophe Ballin connection, the Sky is powered by a Torqeedo system – twin Deep Blue 50kW motors with their BMW 42kWh lithium-ion batteries. That gives the Sky 33 a range of 100 nm (180 km / 115 mi) – which should be far enough to get to a nice harbour or beach – and a top speed of 20 kts (37 kmh / 23 mph) for those 10 minutes of speeding around.
They seem off to a good start. “We first announced the boat in early July” says Nierich, “and we are already in deep discussions with clients.” On the production side Reardon is confident the Edenton facility is set up to handle the goal of building 100 boats per year. The first ones will be ready in Spring of 2021.
Voltaire Sky 33
|Length (LoA)||9.90 m / 32 ft|
|Beam||4 m / 13 ft|
|Engine||Torqeedo – 2x Deep Blue 50 kW (2 x 80 hp)|
|Batteries||2x 42 kWh BMW – 9 year warranty|
|Top Speed||17 – 20 knots / 31 – 37 kmh / 20 – 23 mph|
|Cruising Speed||12 knots / 22 kmh / 14 mph|
|Range (at 9kts)||100 nm / 180 km / 115 mi|
|CE Category||B (12 people)|