Designed to stand the test of changing attitudes to the environment and lifestyle at sea, the unique superyacht concept Aeolus is a multidisciplinary collaboration with power and propulsion technology from ABB at its core.

In late summer 2022, custom yacht builder Oceanco hosted a roundtable to discuss a revolutionary vessel concept – Aeolus – that would set new standards in superyacht design. Bringing together some of the sharpest creative and technical minds from the yacht industry and beyond, the meeting aligned with the goals of Oceanco ‘NXT’, an initiative that seeks to respond to evolving attitudes by harnessing perspectives and skillsets from different sectors.

In attendance were Giles Taylor, a renowned British car designer responsible for Aeolus’s exterior design; Njord, the yachting arm of award-winning interior design studio Bergman Design House; Lateral Naval Architects, a superyacht naval architecture and engineering specialist; MTU Solutions, the power systems business unit of Rolls-Royce, which will deliver the vessel’s prime mover engines; and ABB, which will supply an integrated power and propulsion technology solution.

“All the partners involved in this project are exceptional in their field, and that shone through at the roundtable,” comments Paris Baloumis, Group Marketing Director, Oceanco. “This was a new way of collaborating for Oceanco, but it set the scene for the whole concept, providing an opportunity for everyone to contribute their thoughts and knowledge and share constructive feedback. We concluded the meeting entirely convinced that this would be a fruitful collaboration.”

Future-proof for energy transition

As the engineering partner, Lateral was tasked with “shaping the technical narrative” for a vessel that would address current and future requirements in a feasible and marketable way. Key to fulfilling this ambition is the Energy Transition Platform (ETP). Developed by Oceanco and Lateral in collaboration with MTU and ABB, the Energy Transition Platform is an adaptable architecture concept that presents a practical roadmap to more environmentally friendly superyacht operations in three stages.

At stage 1, Aeolus is fitted with ‘current state-of-the-art’ technology for efficient diesel-electric operations, including three 16V 4000 M54 main diesel gensets and two 16V 2000 M782 auxiliary diesel gensets from MTU; a future-proof fuel storage system engineered by Lateral; and dual Azipod® electric propulsion units, battery energy storage system and Onboard DC Grid™ with a Power and Energy Management (PEMS™) system from ABB.

All the partners involved in this project are exceptional in their field.

There are direct parallels between Onboard DC Grid™ as a physical system and the Energy Transition Platform as a concept, says Riccardo Repetto, Global Segment Manager, Superyachts, ABB Marine & Ports. “Onboard DC Grid™ power distribution supports the principles of the platform,” he says. “It is flexible and customizable by design, facilitating the integration of new energy sources and loads as requirements evolve and technology develops. For Aeolus, as for so many existing vessels across multiple segments, it represents the future-proof foundation for achieving long-term efficiency and sustainability goals.”

At the Energy Transition Platform stage 2, the ‘mid-life upgrade’, the two auxiliary diesel engines are replaced by High Temperature (HT) Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells fueled by methanol. The fuel cells are capable of supplying power for hotel load as well as slow steaming, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions at anchor and harbor conditions. The architecture installed at stage 1 accommodates a second fuel tank for methanol storage.

Finally, at stage 3, Aeolus’s ‘end state’, sees the main diesel prime movers replaced with MTU’s methanol internal combustion engines to enable fully methanol-powered operations for minimized CO2 emissions both at anchor and at sea. At this stage, the vessel is entirely diesel-combustion engine free, with both fuel tanks storing methanol.

While Onboard DC Grid™ is the architectural backbone of the Energy Transition Platform, ABB’s Power and Energy Management System (PEMS™) provides the digital core, acting as the critical interface between power sources. “In a hybrid system like this, the power from the batteries must be coordinated with the power from the engine and fuel cells to best serve the yacht’s needs depending on the operational profile,” says Repetto. “The PEMS™ ensures optimal use of total power sources for safe, efficient and environmentally friendly operations whether the vessel is idle using dynamic positioning or sailing at full power.”

Lateral thinking for superyachts

Although the Energy Transition Platform emerged from the Aeolus concept, it is applicable to any future-focused superyacht project and can be adapted to serve other vessel segments. The essence of the platform, says James Roy, Managing Director, Lateral Naval Architects, is its ability to offer owners a ‘compelling’ means of future-proofing their vessels.

“Superyachts built today will operate over a broad time frame spanning multiple phases of energy transition, meaning they will need several upgrades over the course of their lifespan,” he notes. “However, owners don’t want their yachts, as such valuable assets, to undergo major structural surgery at great cost. What they want is a compelling way to future-proof their vessels, to allow seamless upgrades when the time comes – and that’s exactly what the platform offers them.”

Addressing owners’ requirements and desires is a central theme of the Aeolus concept and calls for the synchronization of technical and aesthetic factors, adds Roy. “Like any superyacht, Aeolus is designed to deliver luxury, so while following the Energy Transition Platform is crucial, we also adhere as closely as possible to Giles Taylor’s aesthetic vision,” he says. “Of course, there is always a degree of push and pull between engineering and design in superyacht projects, but in this case, given the extensive technical space required to accommodate solutions covering a decades-long transformation, striking the right balance is particularly tricky.”

This is a vessel concept designed to stand the test of time.

Here, the frank and open discussion stimulated by Oceanco’s roundtable – and the close relationships it helped to nurture between participants – is proving pivotal. Through cooperation and compromise, the project partners are able to conceive a visually and technically sophisticated design that pushes boundaries in terms of both lifestyle and sustainability.

According to Baloumis, this marriage of style and substance is integral to meeting the demands of the modern superyacht owner. “A yacht is an extension of its owner’s brand, and owners want to be seen as living their values through their vessels,” he says. “Previously, the average yacht owner’s primary concerns were how the vessel looked and how fast it could cruise, but today, Oceanco serves a growing cohort of what we call ‘young-minded’ clients, so while aesthetics and lifestyle will always be crucial considerations, environmental responsibility is now equally important.”

Guided by the winds of change

As the Aeolus concept so convincingly demonstrates, sustainability and luxury are not mutually exclusive. Exemplary is the vessel’s recycling of waste heat to warm the pool – a staple of Oceanco superyachts. Even its eye-catching silhouette – sleek, smooth and perfectly balanced – helps to optimize hydrodynamic efficiency. Again, ABB’s electric Azipod® propulsion system, the most advanced of its kind on the market, reduces fuel consumption and emissions while minimizing noise and vibrations for a more comfortable onboard experience.

The harmony between environmental credentials and lifestyle achieved through technology is echoed in the vessel’s interior design. Materials painstakingly selected by Njord include a premium plant-based leather alternative sourced from climate-positive cacti and organic linens made using non-toxic processes and dyes.

“In Greek mythology, Aeolus was the keeper of the winds,” explains Baloumis. “Just as its namesake would help seafarers safely on their journey by directing the winds in their favor, our visionary superyacht seeks to guide the industry towards a more efficient and sustainable future.”

Commercial interest in the Energy Transition Platform is building fast, he adds. “We see no reason why Aeolus can’t set the standard in future-proof yacht building for decades to come – after all, this is a vessel concept designed to stand the test of time.”

Images credit: Oceanco

Source: ABB