Michael Köhler was annoyed. He was cruising the world on a catamaran, seeing all kinds of technological leaps, yet struggled with a lack of power.
“People have cellphones, iPads, cameras, whatever, but the energy-harvesting system on boats did not change at all in the past 20 years,” he says. “It forces people to go to the marinas every second day or run the generators.”
So, he started noodling. For four years. He wanted to stay on the hook for weeks, running the air conditioning and all the systems.
Finally, the ideas about which solar panels, electric motors, inverters and the like to use — and more importantly, he says, how to configure them — became the basis for the brand Silent-Yachts. The company offers 55-, 64- and 79-foot catamarans that run on solar-electric propulsion. The 55 premiered this fall, and the 64 is sold out for the next two years, Köhler says.
Three power packages are available: E-Power with twin 135 kW motors; Cruiser with a pair of 30 kW motors ; and Hybrid with two 220 hp diesel engines and two 14 kW electric motors. The base power reportedly provides a top-end of 14 knots. Masts and sails can be added too.
Köhler says the trick is perfecting more than the drivetrain. It’s also considering things like insulation, so less power is needed.
“There is a Chinese saying: You do not get rich from the money you earn. You get rich from the money you do not spend,” he says. “This is our approach with energy. The less you use, the more comfortable you can be.”