Boat of the Week: The Solar-Powered Electric Catamaran Can Cruise Silently and Emissions Free
John, Paul, George and Ringo singing “Here Comes the Sun” would make the perfect anthem for Austrian-owned Silent Group’s newest 60-foot power catamaran, the $3 million Silent 60.
Why? Without sunshine, you won’t get very far.
Thankfully, the searing Florida sun is beating down as we take to Fort Lauderdale’s bustling Intracoastal Waterway to try-out this eco-friendly Silent 60. With its roof and foredeck crammed full of solar panels, the sixty-footer is humming along at a leisurely six mph on just zero-emissions battery power.
Just as its name suggests, the ride is hushed, with just the gentle, soothing sound of water bubbling-up in the wake to interrupt the peace and quiet.
“Silent running is top of the list when it comes to what appeals to our customers. They don’t want to hear engines or feel vibration,” Silent Yachts’ in-house designer Juliana Miguel told Robb Report, during the run.
“These days it’s also about fuel costs,” adds US sales director, Philip Bell. “One customer ordered a new 60 after getting tired of using his 80-foot Italian motoryacht for weekend trips to the Bahamas and spending $12,000 on fuel each time.”
The Silent 60’s claim to fame? Quiet, zero-emission, electric-only cruising at 7 to 8 mph for up to nine hours, or roughly 100 nautical miles a day. Throttle back to 4 mph, and the company says you have the possibility of near perpetual motion.
We’re sampling the third hull of the constantly evolving Silent 60 series that launched last summer. Silent has been the leader in inventing the solar-powered electric-cruiser niche. Replacing the original Silent 55, the 60 has been such a boat-show hit that more than 30 are currently awaiting construction at Silent’s yards in Fano, Italy and Istanbul, Turkey.
The yacht we’re on is an original folding-hardtop version, with its cantilevered roof panel that, at the push of a button, lowers to cover the small, open flybridge area. Tastes, however, are evolving.
According to Bell, most of the new 60s currently in build are “tri-deck” models, featuring a significantly larger flybridge area, a fixed rather than folding roof (also covered with solar panels), and the option of a fully open flybridge, or glass-enclosed “sky lounge,” designed for additional entertaining space or even a master suite.
At the dock, given its 30-foot beam, the 60 looks humongous. To our eyes, it’s not going to win any beauty contests. Towering, vertical hull-sides, a fairly-shapeless upright bow design, and straight up-and-down cabin sides give the catamaran a square-edged, boxy look. All function with little form.
But what the owner gets are huge interior spaces. Inside, it feels like a floating apartment, with a cavernous salon, spacious galley, large dining area, and huge aft deck. Down below are choices of three or four spacious en-suite cabins in the hulls.
But the quality of the interior doesn’t track with the boat’s $3 million-plus price tag. Thin cabinet doors, dull-looking fabrics, gelcoat fiberglass on the salon ceilings, faux-wood vinyl flooring, and an inside helm station that was little more than an upholstered board with instruments that looked haphazardly arranged, were all below par, considering the upscale market Silent is targeting.
Miguel says the interior will change with the next generation of 60s arriving towards the end of the year, with a big step-up in terms of quality of materials, attention to detail, style, and fit and finish. So, why didn’t they wait to unveil the boat to the media before they got to that point?
The man at the helm is Silent Yachts’ delivery captain and chief tester Kyle Miller. With a jiggle of a joystick control and a touch of bow-thruster, he maneuvers the 60 out of its tight, side-on slip and eases into the busy Intracoastal Waterway.
The yacht features Silent’s E-Power propulsion package, with twin Dana TM4 200kW or 268 hp electric motors and 207kWh lithium-ion batteries. They’re good for an 8 mph cruise speed and claimed 16 mph top speed. There’s also a base version with twin 50kW or 67 hp motors juiced by a 143kWh lithium-ion battery bank. Even Miller admits this is short on power.
The best, and of course the priciest, option is the E-Power+ package, featuring twin 340kW 455 hp motors and 286kWh batteries. It’s said to be good for tide-punching bursts of up to 20 mph.
“For anyone who wants to dash around at 17 knots all day long, our recommendation is to buy a different boat,” says Miller. “The Silent 60 is designed for relaxing on the move, gliding from one anchorage to the next, and being self-sufficient on the hook.”
As we discovered, the 60 isn’t always a Tesla of the seas. Running over 6 mph will necessitate firing up the Hyundai diesel generator for one of every three hours of running time to keep the batteries charged. And that’s not silent.
While ambling along at 6 mph is fine for laid-back cruising, we also had concerns about a lack of reserve power for tackling strong currents and adverse tides.
Even our test boat’s twin 200kW motors struggled to keep the 60 under control when maneuvering against a fast, incoming tide under Lauderdale’s narrow 17th Street Bridge. The bigger 340kW motors are definitely the way to go for running in fast currents or tidal waters.
Without doubt, this new Silent 60 showcases the appeal of electric power on the water. The way it efficiently and effectively harnesses the sun’s rays, its largely zero-emissions running, coupled with its huge and versatile interior space, is impressive for a family cruiser.
Just don’t plan on getting anywhere in a hurry—and beware of fast-running tides.
Source: Robb Report