Italian superyacht builder Sanlorenzo has started its 60th year with the announcement of a new division with serious environmental credentials based on applying diesel-electric and hybrid propulsion systems to a complete range of models.

“The eco-friendly philosophy is successfully growing in different sectors, but if the automotive segment, after initial hesitation, reports remarkable results, the nautical industry sees a slower and more difficult diffusion of electric and hybrid propulsion systems,” the company says.

Sanlorenzo’s new Diesel-Electric & Hybrid Division, launched at a boot Düsseldorf press briefing, involves cooperation with Tilli Antonelli, previously a partner in the Wider Yachts business. Massimo Perotti, CEO of Sanlorenzo, said: “This is the beginning of a new era for yachting and Sanlorenzo wants to be the first player in this market.”

The company has already been active in this market, having started in 2015 with its SL106 Hybrid model. Over the past few years, Sanlorenzo has paid much attention to technology development in the diesel/electric and hybrid fields and eventually it used these systems on a complete range of new models, named E Motion.

Being a firm believer in developing this technology and appropriate yacht designs, Sanlorenzo points to the propulsion systems having characteristics that guarantee:

  • Greater safety at sea: the double electrical system is “redundant” and therefore able to function even in case of a breakdown. The unavailable portion is left out while the second part keeps operating
  • Greater efficiency: the fuel consumption of the variable speed generators is controlled electronically according to the required load, therefore it is much lower than the traditional consumption
  • Greater comfort: the variable speed generators are smaller than conventional groups, and are mounted on shock and vibration absorber structures
  • Greater space on board: the variable speed groups are double, but they take much less volume than diesel engines of the same power and they are mounted overlapped, clearing the space usually taken by a traditional engine room, for the benefit of the owner and guests
  • Greater flexibility: the propulsion and the energy required onboard can be managed in different profiles according to the captain’s need and the owner’s desires
  • Significant emission reduction: in ZEM (Zero Emission Mode) it is possible to sail – at low speed and for short range – using only the energy of the batteries. This allows spending an entire night at anchor without using the VSG, and reaching natural parks and restricted marine areas that are impossible to access with traditional systems

The E Motion range will consist of both displacement superyachts in metal with a diesel/electric propulsion, and high-performance planing yachts in fibreglass, equipped with hybrid system. The first two fibreglass units will be launched in 2018 – a 27m (88.7ft) SL86 E Motion model in May and December.

By 2020, Perotti pointed out that the first three Sanlorenzo superyachts with diesel/electric systems will be available – the 44Alloy E Motion, 500Exp E Emotion and 62Steel E Motion at 44m (145ft), 47m (154ft) and 62m (203.5ft) respectively. The range will be complete in 2021 with the introduction of 50Alloy, 56Exp and 58Steel.

The eco-friendly vision of Sanlorenzo involves also the tenders that the E Motion yachts and superyachts will be equipped with. The shipyard is cooperating with strategic partners to develop full electric Jet tenders. Perotti also announced a new strategic cooperation with the US car make Tesla in respect of batteries.

According to their characteristics, the E Motion models can be equipped with hybrid or diesel-electric propulsion systems. With the hybrid system, the main propulsion relies on diesel engines, and electric motors operate on demand along with the main engine in order to increase its power.

The hybrid system is installed on Sanlorenzo’s fibreglass models and uses smaller and less powerful engines than the conventional ones, which means less consumption when the boat sails at cruising speed. Only when required, with the help of gen sets and batteries, this system generates the power to feed the electric motors which are paired with the main engines, making the yacht reach the top performances.

When sailing, the electric engines can be exploited as energy generators to manage the onboard consumption and/or to recharge the batteries.

In the electric propulsion mode, the motion to the propeller is given by an electric motor fed by variable speed generators, by Lithium ion batteries or by a combination of the two. The diesel-electric system onboard the Sanlorenzo Superyachts consists of four or more generators (called VSG) according to the size of the yacht and the required performances, without the traditional power generators.

These generators take much less volume compared to the “classic” engines and can considerably reduce the space usually dedicated to the engine room, to the benefit of the onboard leisure areas. On the 500Exp E Motion model, it allowed the creation of an indoor hallway that links the main salon with the beach club, walking through a beautiful engine room in a glass corridor, called “Art Gallery Engine Room”.

Since the propeller rotation is managed by the electric motors positioned closed to the propellers, there is no need of any mechanical transmission connection. The electric system is therefore more silent, efficient and lasting than a traditional one, and more flexible to install, giving maximum freedom in the interior lay-out possibilities.

The generated energy can be stocked in Lithium Ion battery banks of different sizes, according to the yacht dimension, so that it can be used also in “zero emission mode” when at anchor, or when exploring restricted marine parks otherwise not navigable.

Perotti pointed out to the briefing that the investment in these systems was quite small, some €5m. However, a key challenge in developing the new systems is the training of yacht crew and the company’s workforce. “We want to establish a Sanlorenzo Academy that will train crew for our yachts and also our workforce. This initiative had been started but had to be postponed but we will start it again next year.”

Sanlorenzo, as one of the world’s top superyacht builders, is currently investing over a three-year period €100m comprising €60m going on facilities and €40m on product development. The company is also looking to make a significant return to the Middle East so will be appointing a new dealer and will also participate in the Dubai International Boat Show.