Electric Is The Future

Jimmy Cornell, a name you may be very familiar with, gave a lecture to the Cruising Association about his experience with a zero-emissions project. The yachting legend talked in detail about the vessel, Aventura Zero and the ELCANO Challenge.

Today we want to talk a little bit about what we can learn and how we view the future industry adoption of zero emissions and our potential role in it.

Jimmy expressed confidence in the Outremer platform, and in this, we wholeheartedly concur. Our system (CMG) on his platform, would provide enough energy for conspicuous consumption (Whio II, in contrast, is a radical demonstration to prove a point). However, his design criteria for the project was that the crew accepted spartan living standards, a compromise that nearly every cruising vessel rejects, which is why all new yachts have a diesel engine/generator.

We believe that this philosophy is absolutely false, and if it were true; there will be no electric future. It is a huge roadblock to acceptance, and it needs to be comprehensively proven that a zero-emissions vessel is not only possible, but far more safe, comfortable, and flexible than any existing vessel out there.

During the design of Aventura Zero, the equipment specification was driven by the equipment supplier, including propeller design. This resulted in an electrical system that was out of balance, susceptible to periods of critical excess energy and not capable of delivering even moderate levels of comfort during intermittent supply.

Interestingly, Jimmy states that the refrigeration and cooking used more energy than expected and they were looking for savings there. It is this single-minded focus on saving that hides the alternative of making more energy and having plenty for comfort. Jimmy delivered himself a vessel designed to have the outcome of spartan conditions, as per his expectations and design criteria. He also shared a touching reflection on the effects on crew morale when subjected to energy poverty.

Frustratingly, this all seems to build up the overall perception that zero-emissions is not yet possible. Our answer is to engineer Whio II with a focus on optimising energy by sailing to ‘CMG’, providing safer sailing, faster passage times, and at the very least, hot showers for the crew every day.

When specifying the size of the battery pack, Jimmy recalls that the decision was based on the system supplier’s recommendation of a little over 50kWh usable. Jimmy’s question was; “What does that mean… …Tell me how long I can go at full throttle.

This criterion was never even tested, let alone used. Whio II’s battery pack is designed on the back of many years of hourly wind and solar data, matched with four predetermined 4,500km cruises, several climate zones, and conspicuous consumption of water and energy, including a fast tender charger. Just as in Jimmy’s project, we will achieve exactly as our expectations and design criteria have set out for.

While we’re sure Aventrue Zero’s unsuitability for the ELCANO Challenge is a result of many things, these two key points are the ones Jimmy chose to talk about in his only public lecture regard the project and it is reassuring to me that the lessons he has learned the hard way, we have engineered to be easily managed.

Here’s a quote for the last design input to the Aventura Zero from its special features page:

Following from that [crew with the right attitude] – and this is perhaps the most important factor – to accept that we now live in a world and a time when we must be ready to change our ways, from what we eat, how we live, how we travel; and certainly how we sail.”
Jimmy Cornell, 2021

Here we find the roadblock to change; expressed as the bedrock of the project, they suffered energy poverty, range anxiety and this must be eliminated in order to progress. As someone who comes from an Energy Management background, we know people will only adopt the technology if it is safe, more comfortable, faster, and cheaper to operate than what is already existing. So, we’ve started with this as the bedrock, and when we run the numbers and engineer the solution, we find out that it is actually quite simple after all.