From the beginning of last century, pioneering automobile builders and inventors of things mechanical were playing around with different forms of propulsion for early cars.
Though most ideas never ventured much further than the drawing board or a few feeble tests, these early experimental concepts were the forerunners of what we now call ‘hybrids’. Further, many shelved ventures developed into alternative or dual power sources over the decades, but it wasn’t until 1997 that Toyota and Audi both released the world’s first mass production hybrid motor vehicles – the Prius and Duo.
Today, more and more major car makers offer hybrids.
Now, in 2010, it would appear that the boating industry is heading down the hybrid path with the release of the world’s first production dual-power source cruiser – the Greenline 33 Hybrid.
The brainchild of multi award-winning J & J Design, and built by the Seaway Group in Slovenia, the Greenline Hybrid uses a low-drag, semi-displacement hull, powered by both a single diesel and a solar electric engine. The maker’s claim it is the industry’s first genuine, hybrid power cruiser.
However, the significant difference between the road-going hybrids and their aquatic equivalent is in the way the two drive systems are used and the addition of solar panels as a supplementary source of battery recharge.
While hybrid cars use either a parallel or series hybrid system (with a parallel system, the petrol and electric engines work together to drive the car and with a series system, the petrol engine either directly powers the electric motor that drives the car or charges the batteries that power the motor), the Greenline Hybrid can be driven only by using either the diesel engine or the electric motor – not working simultaneously.
The only time the two power systems work together is when the lithium batteries (used by the electric engine) are charged by the diesel. But then the battery recharge is not entirely done via the diesel as the recharge can also be boosted by the solar panels mounted on the saloon cabin roof.
No matter how, or what drives what, the fact is, the Greenline incorporates new and very creative 21st century boating technology. This has already resulted in the 2010 European Boat of the Year award, several National Boat of the Year awards; the Swedish Environmental Boat of the Year, and a nomination for the European Award for the Environment.
Powered by a single five-cylinder 75hp VW marine diesel, the Greenline 33 Hybrid has a cruise range of up to 700 nautical miles (1300km) at a cruise speed of 7 knots (13km/h) and has a top speed of 10 knots (18.5km/h). The more powerful 165hp VW diesel increases that top speed to 15 knots (28km/h). With the eM/G electric motor and generator producing up to 7kW of power, maximum speed running on the electric motor only is 6 knots (11km/h), with a maximum cruise range of approximately 20 nautical miles (37km) at 4 knots (7.5km/h).
The key to the hybrid operation lies in the drive system, which is the subject of a patent application. Both the electric and diesel engine are mounted in line driving a common shaft, with the two power systems separated by a clutch that disengages the diesel when the electric engine is running.
The flick of a switch allows the driver to change between diesel and electric drive, but to do this the throttle/gear lever needs to be slipped into neutral. The switch selects one drive system or the other, and then it’s a matter of slipping back into gear and off you go.
Electric power provides serenity and silence – the boat just glides along as though it’s being towed by the tide. There’s no noise, no vibration, and very low running costs – with zero emissions. This is definitely the way to go cruising when nothing else matters and it’s an ideal power system to use on leaving or entering a marina, cruising some quiet waterway or residential development or simply as a way of keeping fuel costs down.
The efficient, semi-displacement hull creates little wash and, particularly at such low speeds under electric power, with no noise and no engine fumes, it is the only way to travel in enclosed situations. I did have reservations about using the electric motor to berth five tonnes of boat in a tight marina, particularly trying to bring the boat to a sudden or unexpected halt, but it turned out there was no issue – the 7kW electric motor producing more than enough power and torque to pull it up quite abruptly. The bow thruster adds some manoeuvrability in tight spaces.
The bank of lithium batteries powering the electric motor weighs a miserly 80kg and is compactly stored under part of the saloon lounge. These batteries are additional to the standard bank of marine batteries used to operate the usual things, such as the diesel engine, navigation electronics, home appliances and entertainment system.
Both battery systems are charged when the diesel engine is running, which, in turn, drives a 5kW generator built into the electric motor. At rest, the solar panels charge the batteries, but if the drain on the batteries reduces their charge below a set level, the diesel engine is switched to turn the generator and provide a boost recharge.
Getting down to the boat itself, I think the Greenline 33 can best be summarised as a 21st century Hawkesbury River Halvorsen. This boat epitomises the river cruising lifestyle. It’s all about lazy, quiet cruising on some secluded waterway with long hours spent at anchor – just the role that those old Halvo’s so very successfully offered on the Hawkesbury River for more than 30 years.
The forward vee berth cabin (berths slide together to convert to a double bed) and a bathroom below deck provide facilities that are ideal for a couple. The conversion of the saloon lounge adds extra sleeping space for a second couple or a pair of kids.
The saloon has all the basic needs for cruising, with a very well-equipped, compact galley (including a coffee maker), a good entertainment and sound system and comfortable day lounges and table, all opening out onto a generous rear deck.
There are two aspects of the saloon and rear cockpit that I really loved and that make this boat so very appealing for a lazy cruising lifestyle. The saloon is light, bright and open, with good all-round views as it flows out onto the rear deck. Thanks to the electrically-operated transom that hinges down level with the cockpit, the rear deck offers extra space in the form of an excellent swim and boarding platform.
This may not be an ideal option for young kids, unless they are closely supervised, but for a couple or families with older kids, it’s a great way of making your 33-footer just that much bigger when at anchor.
The aft saloon bulkhead is fully-glazed, and a sliding door and fold-up window allow this back section of the saloon to be almost fully exposed to the cockpit, making for one large living area. The galley, placed aft in the saloon, has a small bench panel that hinges out over the bulkhead opening, extending the working area and providing a small servery extension to the galley bench top.
This is all neatly done and very well suited to the cruising lifestyle so popular in many regions of Australia. The Greenline would be just the thing for the Hawkesbury, Pittwater or Sydney Harbour, all of the Gold Coast waterways and the Gippsland lakes region, just to mention a few.
There isn’t a lot of seating built in around the cockpit (only two rear quarter seats), but below the floor there are two bulky storage spaces able to hold folding deck chairs and tables.
The saloon roof extends well aft for reasonable protection over most of the cockpit. Access right around the boat is excellent and with the near waist-high rear and side deck coamings, gives a good safe walkway around to the foredeck and sun lounge.
As I have experienced previously with similar semi-displacement, single-engine, low-speed cruisers, the boat can be rocked about by other boat washes, but the Greenline does recover quite quickly, thanks to the two sacrificial stabilisers that are fitted either side of the prop shaft.
These stabilisers actually serve three purposes – they deliver roll stability, provide tracking stability and protect the drive shaft, rudder and prop.
The quality of finish, attention to detail and overall presentation of the Greenline 33 are faultless. The concept may not be the answer for anyone looking for alternative, environmentally-friendly cruising power boats– just as hybrid cars have a lot to prove and have yet to capture significant market share and buyer interest – but there is now, at least, an alternative means of getting from A to B, with a choice of power systems.
The ‘green’ benefits the Greenline Hybrid has to offer cannot be doubted. The weight saving, longer life and solar charging capacity of the lithium batteries make them far superior to the normal lead battery, and there is no doubting that this boat will burn considerably less fossil fuel per nautical mile than a conventionally-powered hull.
Add to this the fact that the boat can be emission-free, as well as being free of noise for at least 20 nautical miles (37km) or so, means that the Greenline can certainly lay claim to that populist catch-cry of the modern western lifestyle – environmental friendliness – or at least more so than all the others.
SPECIFICATIONS: GREENLINE 33 HYBRID
Displacement: 4800kg (dry)
Engines: VW SDI five-cylinder 75hp marine diesel, 7kW electric motor with integrated 5kW generator
Price: Starting from $243,333 (non-Hybrid), starting from approx. $305,000 (solar Hybrid)
For more information, contact North Sydney Yachting, tel (02) 9998 9600, www.northsydneyyachting.com.au.