Sail-Powered Ships Poised to Make Comback?

A far cry from what the powerful and important vessels they once were, sail boats are little more than recreational toys for most people. But at least one company thinks they can be effective cargo ships once again.

Britain’s B9 Energy, an energy company with an emphasis on wind, is designing and building what they say will be a carbon-neutral shipping sailboat. Due to hit European waters in 2012, the wind-powered freight will feature self-adjusting kite sails that could provide up to 60% of the power needed for the ship. The other 40% will come from a biofuel engine that can also run on propane. The ship will also be made from recycled metal and utilize the “Sky Sail,” basically a giant kite that helps tow the boat along.

When it sets sail, the freighter will have a total cargo capacity of about 9,000 tons, less than 1/10th that of long-haul super freighters that carry cargo across the Atlantic. That is however ten times more than comparable sailing ships from over a century ago, and this freighter is being designed for shipping through European waters at first. In other words, they don’t have far to go, and currently there are about 1,500 cargo ships of similar size operating in European waters. Shipping is responsible for as much as 4% of the world’s total shipping emissions, and in European waters especially that pollution drifts over major population bases. I’m sure many coastal residents would appreciate the cleaner air.

There is skepticism regarding the cost effectiveness of such a vessel, since it carries substantially less cargo than bigger shipping freighters. The wind is free though, and if the B9 boat can get more than half of its propulsion from a free energy source, they will save a lot of money on fuel. It won’t happen overnight, but from a business perspective, I don’t see why shipping companies wouldn’t want wind-powered ships. It would just more money in their pockets.

Source: CNN

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.