Industrious Swedes invent wind-powered cargo ship that's definitely not a sailboat

Originally published at: Industrious Swedes invent wind-powered cargo ship that's definitely not a sailboat | Boing Boing


I’m not sure I get the contempt angle here. Their corporate PR could be more plain-spoken, but it’s not like they’re selling something you could buy from some artisan boat-builder, and it’s a practical, useful product that requires a ton of skilled labor for every unit produced (assuming it is real).


There is an argument about wings versus sails, but in my view this (and the America’s Cup yachts that also have rigid wing-sails) is definitely a sailing vessel. The ability to telescope the sails, reducing their area in high winds, also makes it much more practical than the racing yachts whose wing-sails are a fixed size.

Wallenius is kind of the opposite of a start-up, as well- it’s a division of a multi-billion dollar company with over 100 ships and a history in the shipping business going back to the 19th century.


If we could just adjust everyone’s expectations so they can wait four extra days for whatever goods are transported in the hulls…

It’s really neat, but it’s only one part of a complex network that needs to change fundamentally if the world is going to deal with the climate crisis. Wind-powered cargo ships won’t make much difference if their hulls are full of goods that rely on plundering natural resources and are disposed of very casually at the end of their (short) useful life. Nobody is addressing the question of whether we should be sending countless shiploads of cars across the oceans, or really focusing on transforming our societies so we’re not so reliant on automobiles.


Well, neither the ship top nor sail top appear to be solar or offer sunlights, so maybe they should initially offer to ship 7,000 partition-less office spaces and if people wish to drive them or grow bok choi in lighted racks, sell that added feature.

Sail fast and break wind. And hope the cameras capture any lost sailors to attention. Maybe have people or robots hung off the sides on cables to defoul the hull, maybe not. Maybe have bubblers lube the hull draft, maybe not.


Really? Nobody in 2021 is thinking about this? Nobody at all? I see. :face_with_monocle:


For real startup energy, the sails wings airfoils should be supplied as a pod-based consumable subscription. Also, I’m not seeing anything about how it will spy on your employees or function as a bank without being regulated as a bank. It’s not clear that the ship even has an app.


Something something PR-generating render.

If something is a good idea, build it and prove it. Until then, companies, please shut the fuck up.


I was going to argue the same thing. “Flettner rotors are wind powered but not sails” I would accept, similarly wind turbine powered boats. Probably also kitesails like HOME | SKYSAILS MARINE

You are not wrong for several of the cups in the past 20-30 years, but I’m happy to say, that is not true for the 2021 AC75. They are using some sort of double-sail to create an airfoil on either tack without the rigidness:

They are in the final races to decide who gets to challenge New Zealand next month if Covid doesn’t delay it. Anyway, in comparison to many of the boats in the last 30 years, these look downright traditional. Bermuda rig, mono-hull, soft sails, and no bike grinders on board. Of course, except for the fact that they are foiling so they literally fly over the water at 30-40 knots. And they have 6-8 sailors on board whose only job is as a human hamster to keep hydraulic systems pumped up. And that they can’t sail if the wind is too low. And they can’t sail if the wind is too strong. Or probably if it rains. And they all have ipads and gps telling them the best time to tack. And it costs millions of dollars to field a challenge. I guess what i’m saying is that they resemble a real boat about as much as a formula 1 racecar resembles a Honda Oddysey. But soft sails!


Thinking about it? Sure. Doing things likely to make a major difference in the reasonably near term? Less so.


“When the first ship is completed, it will be the world’s largest sailing vessel.”

So what you’re saying is it ain’t done yet?


Fuel costs have already led to a slowdown in shipping times, so if this new technology is successful then it will be a relatively smaller shift to make it viable.


I’m going to submit that an awful lot of people are both thinking about and doing something about climate change, automobile pollution, and of course the pollution associated with shipping vehicles (which somewhere between 2025 and 2030 will almost all be electric) across the sea.

Is it enough? Well, we shall see, won’t we. But considering how much effort is going into this stuff, and yes, major efforts are being made, I just think it’s a bit silly to write off all of those things in a single sentence on a BBS, is all.

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It’s incredible how hard it seems to be to make an immediate source of free energy economical to use.

Well, people have been sailing for thousands of years, and making great utility of wind power for transportation, warfare, trade, etc.

“Sailing” a contemporary container ship is about as significant a sailing challenge as one could possibly imagine, I think. I’m actually amazed it’s even being attempted — this project looks exceptionally cool!


Generally speaking, the cars we import from other countries tend to get much better fuel economy than the behemoth SUVs and trucks that are produced domestically. Even when shipped via a dirty traditional cargo vessel the pollution associated with shipping is a negligible part of its overall lifetime carbon footprint. So I wouldn’t spend too much time fretting about the fact that we import a lot of cars. If you complaint is more about reliance on cars in general, that’s not really the fault of the shipping folks.


I’m not sure the snark is deserved. Is this not a worthy engineering effort?


Sure. Worth mentioning, it’s not the biggest sailing ship in history:

(also swedish)


Okay, I’ll concede that “nobody” is an exaggeration. However, I still question whether we have our priorities straight. If you look at cities across North America, their public transport infrastructure generally sucks despite considerable public investment. About 45% of Americans have zero access to public transport, and the number is changing too slowly to have a hope of making a serious dent in emissions.

Electric cars, boats, planes get a lot of attention. That’s not bad, because we need those things too. But the state of public transport (and how that is tied to other systematic challenges in addressing climate change) doesn’t seem to get as much airplay. I think the reason there is such a focus on cars/boats/planes is that people don’t want to face the possibility that the magnitude of consumption itself is a major issue. People still want to keep driving those cars, they just want them to be electric.

I didn’t mean for my initial comment to be overly negative. My main point is really that electric cars/boats/planes don’t fundamentally change how society operates, and that is the sort of revolution that will be required if we’re to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.