URK – It is an easy trap. Yacht owners and shipping companies consider electric sailing, lured by the promise of fuel savings, zero-emission and noise. Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology, a full-service supplier to the global yachting sector,  puts that in perspective.

Electric sailing is possible through fully electric propulsion, powered by batteries and generators. A hybrid setup switches between electrical and mechanical propulsion.

The choice, says Piet Roskam, Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology sales manager, depends on “a vessel’s sailing profile. Electric sailing is an interesting option (but) not necessarily the most sustainable choice. You need to consider the concrete benefits for your type of vessel and its use. We are currently working on four projects with electric or hybrid propulsion, for example. Each has been designed in a completely different way.”

Hybrid, adds Roskam, has the benefit of electric sailing at low power and diesel-direct propulsion at high power. Offshore vessels, such as fishing boats or luxury superyachts, often run stationary using main engines. It means truly little energy capacity is then used for propulsion and that’s very inefficient.

For their part, short-sea vessels, says Roskam, go in and out of ports, marinas and rivers, and do so often at reduced power. “Hybrid solutions with smaller (diesel) generators are a smart choice in these cases. They are extremely efficient for stationary use, stand-by, maneuvering and sailing short distances.”

A key benefit of hybrid sailing is less maintenance as the engines run fewer hours.

Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology recently equipped a 32m Vitters sailing yacht with peak power shaving and night mode facilities.

The latter rendered more benefits than just quiet. “These included swimming without exhaust fumes, enjoying a cup of tea without noise pollution,” says Roskam.