There has been some chatter going on about yet another innovative propulsion system for boats: compressed air engine power.
The argument is that a trimaran might be a viable platform for this idea. To simplify the concept, what we are talking about here is carrying highly compressed tanks of air on your boat, then having air-driven engines spin your props. If you think about it, it is sort of the same as the compression wrenches you might see in a car repair facility, or a jackhammer you’d see on the street. Of course, in those cases there are compressors on hand to make the compressed air. A compressor has to be powered, either by a fossil fuel engine or by electricity. For argument’s sake, let’s say it is electric, which is more legit in terms of being “green.”
What is cool about this idea is that there are no fuels needed, it is quieter and it doesn’t smell. Of course, there are a few logistics that (at least for now) make it prohibitive, but you know, some day this could work. Let your imagination run a little with this idea.
The reason a trimaran could be good for this is that the amas could be made into huge, high-pressure air tanks. If there were places a yacht could go, get pressured up air, and you could get by the obvious issues of building safe and dependable high pressure tanks, this a nice, albeit far fetched dream. If, of course, it requires you to carry an on-board compressor on your boat, then you would go right back to the same problem I have always thought about regarding hybrid electric systems: you still need to have a diesel engine to power your “green” system. Unlike the hybrid thing, though, this idea could substantially reduce weight. When you reduce weight, then the real discussion points–sailing, sails, wind and solar power–are enhanced.
To beat a dead horse one more time, I have always said that sailboats should sail. So, if you have a great sailboat and you are patient and willing to wait for wind, this idea could provide usable “green” propulsion to get you out of the harbor. It is hard to imagine using this for crossing oceans if you are in a hurry. You would need to have a compressor on board, and it would need some system to get the compressor to work. Well, anyway…