Inboard electric propulsion - Putting an end to CO2 emissions?

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The number of “electrified” boats sold worldwide in 2022 is still very low (it accounts for probably less than 2% of an estimated fleet of 2,000 multihulls). Compare this figure with those from the automotive market: worldwide, the proportion of electric vehicles in overall sales (not counting hybrids) was 7.8% in 2021, rising to 12.9% in 2022, and even reaching as high as 16.1% in the first quarter of this year.
Up until now, electric drivetrains have been offered by smaller, pioneering shipyards, but they are now beginning to be a major feature among the big boatbuilders. As recently as last year, few customers opted for this new type of propulsion. Supposed complexity, low power, battery recharging, range, cost, reliability and after-sales service are all issues that raised many questions. A year seems to be all it has taken to the tide to turn for good: the realization that boating can be greener and more virtuous is now in the minds of almost all sailors. At the beginning of 2022, two out of ten prospective customers were asking about these alternative, environmentally-friendly motors. Since the boat shows of late last year, these figures have reversed: according to many manufacturers, eight out of ten boaters now systematically raise the subject with their dealer or agent. The choice of a less polluting engine is therefore gaining ground in our minds - both among buyers and those wishing to charter a multihull. Of course, there are still a few obstacles in the way, and many boaters, just like customers in the automotive industry, are still skeptical about the merits of the approach at the current stage of development of these new technologies, fearing a lack of performance and reliability from hybrid and/or electric drivetrains. Some prefer to wait and see, while a growing number of others are anticipating the call: for the latter, taking an active part in this evolution of our modes of boating is an eco-responsible step.

Variable-geometry legislation

Bans on CO2 emissions have long been in place on many inland waterways in countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland. More recently, Switzerland, and also France and Italy, have adopted restrictions targeting internal combustion engines. Many sections of Europe’s inland waterway network are also affected, and boats operating there are encouraged - sometimes with subsidies for professional operators - to switch to electric motors. Marine waters such as Marseille’s calanques and certain Norwegian fjords are now reserved for clean propulsion. No doubt many countries around the world will follow suit. The message is clear enough to encourage boating industry professionals to go electric in the first place. In fact, e-motor manufacturers are reporting (for the time being) far more installations and replacements for professional boats than for private craft. For Jeremy Benichou of Torqeedo France, changes in legislation in favor of electric power have had a triggering effect. No ...

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