The EcoKnut project
Currently, Knut relies, like almost all expedition sailboats, on an auxiliary diesel-powered engine. And like for all expedition sailboats, the question often arises whether it’s the sail that’s auxiliary rather than the engine.
Addressing topics like global warming, while burning over a ton of diesel every year? That’s us. Sailing vessels aren’t a rare sight in the Arctic, however sails are seldom unfurled in these high latitudes.
Knut is a proper sailboat, designed for racing. She doesn’t much like her aging, smelly, noisy, oily engine. But when all we have to do is turn a key, it’s easy to take the lazy option.
Our goal at MaréMotrice is to equip Knut with an electric engin before January 2019. This isn’t a hybrid system (which requires a diesel generator to charge the batteries), but a concept involving both engine and sailing – the boat produces her own energy.
Zero emissions. We call this the energetic transition… but this transition isn’t only achieved through technology. It’s first and foremost about reducing needs, and ending a trend that started with the industrial revolution. We will sail like the navigators of 1800, adapting our travel plans accordingly.
In her current state, while engine-powered Knut is able to sail over 500 miles before needing a refill. With her new electric engine, her autonomy will be reduced to 50 miles, but her batteries will recharge while navigating, thanks to the sun, the wind, and above all the energy produced by the boat under sail.
The Knut will serve as a test bed for polar navigation without fossil fuels. A first. A philosophy as well, and not a new one: the three founders of MaréMotrice travelled across many oceans and for many years on a small sailboat, with a pair of oars as the only auxiliary engine.
This project will be carried out in collaboration with Marc Wüst, constructor of solar-powered boats.