Both Beneteau and Contest yachts are bringing out new designs with full electric drives as electric yachts continue to grow in size

It’s more than five years since electric drives became the default propulsion option for new daysailer designs but they’re now also entering the mainstream for larger yachts.

Beneteau’s first electric model, the Oceanis 30.1E, has a complete system from Torqeedo, including a 6kW pod drive with regeneration that enables recharging while sailing. The standard battery, a 5kW 48V unit, is installed at the bottom of the cockpit locker where the diesel tank is usually located, and there’s an option for a second battery to double the range.

The installation is impressively quiet, yet there’s loads of instant torque, which makes for easier manoeuvring in tight spaces than with a diesel engine.

Maximum speed in flat water is six knots, but with limited range as it decreases exponentially with speed. At four knots you get three hours of autonomy with the standard battery pack, which equates to 12 miles in flat water.

One of the interesting facets of electric propulsion is the ability to motorsail in very light winds, when very little power may be needed to add a couple of knots of boat speed. Just a little extra forward propulsion helps build apparent wind, so if the wind direction is suitable, a small amount of electric power will silently boost boat speed from three to five knots. Even the standard battery can support this for as much as 10 hours.

When sailing on a reach, regeneration kicks in as early as 6-8 knots of wind speed. At low speeds only 100W of power is produced, but that figure rises rapidly with increasing boat speed. Beneteau also intends to offer a massive 1,000W package of solar panels that are tailored to the deck shape – enough to completely recharge the 48V bank between weekend trips without plugging into shorepower.

Final pricing has not yet been determined, but it’s expected to be roughly 5-6% more than the standard price for a diesel engine boat, which represents an extra £5,000-£6,000 for the Oceanis 30.1E.

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1E specifications

Hull length: 8.99m / 29ft 6in
Beam: 2.99m / 9ft 10in
Draught: 1.30m or 1.88m / 4ft 3in or 6ft 2in
Displacement: 3,995kg / 8,809lb

contest 49CS

Meanwhile, Dutch yard Contest Yachts has announced its new 49CS and 50CS models are now available with electric propulsion and back-up diesel generators.
“We’ve run the numbers across all conditions: wind, sea state, etc and our already class-leading range capabilities are now potentially bettered by going electric. It’s a win-win!” says Contest’s senior technical engineer Robert Vijselaar.

Contest worked with Lloyds Register, Torqeedo and BMW to create a safe, integrated system with a 50kW Torqeedo Deep Blue motor plus 40kWh BMW i3 battery packs. Regeneration will be available from the propeller, twin in-hull Watt&Sea hydrogenerators and extensive integrated Solbian solar panels.

This is backed up by a 20kW diesel generator that’s large enough to drive the boat at cruising speed without drawing power from the batteries. The efficiency of a generator running at constant speed is such that the 400lt fuel tank means range under motor alone is greater than that of the equivalent boat with a conventional propulsion system.

The first installation will be on a boat that’s scheduled for completion in 2024.

Contest 49CS & 50CS specifications

Hull length (49CS): 15.20m / 49ft 11in
(50CS) 15.46m / 50ft 8in
Beam: 4.90m / 16ft 1in
Draught (std keel): 2.35m / 7ft 9in
Displacement: 22,900kg / 47,400lb

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