What you need to know before buying an electric sailing yacht

10th March 2021

It’s no secret that we’re approaching, or have maybe even passed the moment in history where most buyers are considering buying an electric vehicle. The awkward early adopter phase is long gone, doubters few and far between, and every car manufacturer has at least some EV options, while others focus exclusively on electric and are experiencing massive growth. Mass adoption is here, the prices are falling, and infrastructure and legislature are hurrying to catch up.

All of this has left many people wondering why not bring sailing boats into the electric world? Sailing was never about motoring, never about engine speed – it is about that connection to nature, the serenity of the sea and the challenge. So why not get rid of the “dirty and loud” diesel engine, and simply exchange it for “clean and quiet” electric propulsion? Motor out of the marina or bay in silence, then use the sun, wind and waves to continue your journey.

Well – it turns out that like all good things in life, it’s not that simple, but it can be completely viable if approached correctly, and Elan and Oceanvolt have partnered-up to offer just that.

Early Adopter Phase

Unlike the automobile industry, electric-powered yachting is still in the early adopter phase. That is why picking experienced manufacturers is crucial. Elan Yachts, for instance, had built various highly successful projects with Oceanvolt in the past and were part of the pioneering few boatbuilders to take on the challenge. The partnership flourished and matured so that Elan is now working exclusively with Oceanvolt and has extended the offer to their whole range of yachts. But what does being an early adopter mean for the buyer? Mostly that the technology is here, but the price is high. For a well-rounded, high-quality and reliable system, you can expect to pay 20-30% more than a comparable diesel-powered sailing yacht. And since a large part of that cost is for the batteries, do not expect that to change very soon as the demand for Lithium-ion batteries is only increasing.

For Serious Sailors

However, let’s assume that the price is not a problem. You want to be among the first few with a zero-emissions yacht – no noise, no exhaust, no smell and no environmental restrictions. You want to sail without the use of fossil fuels. You want the famous instant power output benefits of electricity in emergency situations, no engine rev settling, no pre-start waiting and low maintenance costs. You want to use the wind and the sun to re-charge. All of these are actual benefits of electric yacht propulsion, but what are the downsides? For committed sailors, there are not many. The operating range of high-end electric propulsion systems like the one from Oceanvolt is from 25 to 70 miles at 5 knots (and more, depending on the battery pack options and power generation), which is more than enough to get you in and out of marinas and bays and still have plenty left over to get you out of a bind. The rest, you sail. And if the yacht is fast, the winds are fair and you achieve 5 knots or more, Oceanvolt’s hydrogeneration kicks in and generates power for recharging the battery bank. Hydrogeneration creates drag of only 0.1 knot at a boat speed of 7.0 knots – so it is barely noticeable. If you can go even faster, the power generation increases exponentially (see GRAPH 1).