Silent Yachts, the innovative Austrian builder, is on a roll. Silent sold its first solar-powered catamaran just two years ago. Now it just ordered 500 lithium-ion battery packs to power the 15 catamarans it has orders for next year, and it’s opened new plants in Thailand and Fano, Italy.
The state-of-the-art battery packs add up to 2.5 megawatts; their energy storage is equal to that of 25 new Teslas, or enough to run three U.S. homes for a month. The lithium-ion chemistry comes from MG Energy, a Dutch company started by two winners of the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge.
Advancements in lithium-ion technology, and subsequent lower costs, are crucial to the success of solar/electric boat builders. In 2010, Michael and Heike Köhler, the founders of Silent Yachts, took their first solar boat, a Solarwave 46, on sea trials in Europe. At that time, lithium-ion batteries cost $1,183 per kilowatt hour; they now cost around $150 per kWh, and are projected to be less than $100 in a few years.
Silent now has 11 boats in the water around the world, and another ten currently under construction. The first new 60 (pictured above) will be delivered in January. The Silent 60 uses silent solar/electric power for propulsion, giving the big cat virtually unlimited range; it has 42 solar panels producing 17kWp of energy. The 60 also has a creative kite sail, running off the foredeck and controlled by software, for wind power.
Silent set up a second line in its Fano plant to build more 60s; it also is building a 55 and four 80s. See Köhler walk through how the solar/electric power works on the new 80 in the video below: