A new model of Sunseeker yacht fitted with an MTU hybrid propulsion system is to be unveiled next year (image: Rolls-Royce Power Systems).
A new model of Sunseeker yacht fitted with an MTU hybrid propulsion system is to be unveiled next year (image: Rolls-Royce Power Systems).
MTU’s integrated hybrid propulsion solution promises a range of benefits in its Sunseeker luxury yacht application (image: Rolls-Royce Power Systems).
MTU’s integrated hybrid propulsion solution promises a range of benefits in its Sunseeker luxury yacht application (image: Rolls-Royce Power Systems).

A prestigious new reference for battery-equipped hybrid power is the harbinger of future developments, writes David Tinsley.

Next year, Rolls-Royce Power Systems plans to roll-out a range of fully-integrated, hybrid propulsion systems for applications in the 1,000-4,000kW power range per drive train. An important reference for the strategy and future product offering under the MTU brand will be an installation on a luxury motor yacht, consequential to a collaboration agreement announced at the start of 2019 with the British manufacturer Sunseeker International.

The Poole-based builder has yet to release details of the nascent model of yacht which will be the recipient of MTU’s first series production hybrid system. However, the propulsion installation has been confirmed as consisting of two 12-cylinder MTU Series 2000 diesel engines, individually rated at 1,432kW, gearboxes, generators, electric propulsion modules, MTU EnergyPack batteries, and control and monitoring systems.

The arrangements as specified for the yacht can be expanded on a modular basis, so as to suit different sizes and types of vessel, powers and individual customer requirements, and thereby create a portfolio of hybrid ‘packages’. In aiming to broaden the reach of the technology, other target sectors include ferries, service vessels and patrol boats.

For the yacht market as served by Sunseeker, the functionally integrated system, combining diesel engines, electric motors and batteries, promises a range of benefits such as silent cruising, low vibration and emission levels, responsive performance and operating flexibility, plus efficiency and environmental compatibility.

The UK boatbuilder has a track record in innovation and sales director Sean Robertson considers that the partnership with MTU will revolutionise how customers power their boats over the coming years: “The way owners are using their boats continues to evolve, with efficiency and noise reduction now as important as features and volume which all contribute to their ultimate purchase decision. This latest hybrid technology will feature in a brand new model launching in 2020 and will allow owners a choice of multiple operating modes, from all-electric with zero emissions through to the use of twin 12-cylinder diesel engines delivering efficient, class-leading performance.”

Knut Mueller, head of MTU’s marine and government business, also pointed to a shift in market requirements: “We believe that the focus in the future yacht industry will be more and more on smart and innovative system solutions rather than just focusing on the power output level.”

The forthcoming yacht will offer six different operating modes, including the automated ‘smart hybrid’ and ‘charge hybrid’ modes, enabling all power sources to be used as required. In ‘electric mode’, the yacht propulsion and onboard power can be supplied continuously by the generators, optimising fuel consumption and comfort for long and overnight passages. In ‘silent mode’, entailing battery-derived energy only, up to 40 minutes of propulsion and 120 minutes of onboard power should be achievable, without producing any emissions.

Sunseeker has made extensive recourse to MTU machinery in yachts of between 20m and 47m length over the past 18 years, and the two companies laid the basis in 2010 for the hybrid propulsion system in tests carried out on a prototype yacht. How the soon to be implemented new solution influences craft purchase cost in relation to a conventional powering arrangement, and the implications for relative weight and hull volume utilisation, have yet to be made known.

MTU has already equipped a number of vessels with customer-specific hybrid propulsion systems, albeit not of the same type as the installation going into the nascent Sunseeker craft. For instance, a 50m all-aluminium motor yacht built by Heesen Yachts in the Netherlands can draw on either or both diesel-mechanical and diesel-electric sources of power, enabling operation in four different cruising modes, depending on priorities. The installation combines 1,200kW of diesel power from two MTU 12-cylinder Series 2000 engines with 110kW electric motors.

While the Series 2000 is central to next year’s launch of new hybrid propulsion solutions, further systems based on the more powerful MTU Series 4000 high-speed engines are expected to be launched in 2021.

Rolls-Royce is applying a strategy entitled Power Systems 2030 to make the transition from an engine manufacturer to a provider of integrated drive and propulsion systems, with advanced tools for support.

Targeted investments have been made in technologies and solutions aimed at cutting pollutant emissions and consumption of both energy and raw materials under an initiative known as the Green and High-Tech programme. A robust response to the rising demand for electrified drive and propulsion systems forms one of the elements of the strategy. To that end, a technical training initiative has been implemented whereby some 100 company engineers will be assisted to gain an electrical engineering qualification. The programme began in April this year and will run through 2020.


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