Michelin the Sailor Man
June 9, 2021 4:21 PM   Subscribe

According to Michelin, the wing sail transforms wind into forward momentum to decrease overall vessel fuel consumption by 10 to 20 percent.

The company claims that the dual-sided surface of the inflated sail improves performance over traditional flat sails, particularly when it comes to sailing upwind. And we're sure it doesn't hurt that the big, baffled sail ties in nicely with the rubbery folds of the pudgy Michelin Man, serving as something of a highly visible Michelin billboard.
posted by sammyo (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
cap'n bibendum
posted by whatevernot at 4:24 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Supposedly, Norsepower Rotor Sails can "typically reduce fuel consumption by 5-20%", but my understanding is the return on investment makes them not at all practical (and I think it's closer to 8-10% reduction for stuff that matters IRL). Any ideas on how these should compare cost-wise, do they imagine a realistic ROI?

If the ROI is not like an order of magnitude improved this is just a pretend toy, at least as long as bunker fuel is cheap.
posted by floam at 5:03 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I wonder how it'll compare with kites. From the very limited amount I've read about this stuff, kite proponents claim that being able to get to higher altitudes means stronger, steadier winds, making them better for cargo ships. But I have no idea how that plays out in reality.
posted by clawsoon at 5:04 PM on June 9


Any ideas on how these should compare cost-wise, do they imagine a realistic ROI?

Not that this makes things at all an easier sell, but much of the cost of using fossil fuels is external, right? The fuel used now is just conveniently already made, and burning it turns things into CO2 . So sell it as a reduction of pollution and then it sort of looks good.

But yeah: 1 1/2 stars.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:20 PM on June 9


If the ROI is not like an order of magnitude improved this is just a pretend toy, at least as long as bunker fuel is cheap.

Know what's priceless? Being allowed to enter territorial waters and dock so you can unload your cargo.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:35 PM on June 9 [9 favorites]


But yeah: 1 1/2 stars

Is that pretty great or pretty terrible?
posted by howfar at 5:49 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Every bit of reduction helps, so let’s put this out in the real world and see how it works. And then improve on it or the next idea to do even better.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:52 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


It will not be put out into the world if nobody will actually buy it outside prototypes and some token implementations for marketing purposes.

Not that this makes things at all an easier sell, but much of the cost of using fossil fuels is external, right?

Right. Probably the lowest hanging fruit is making marine fuel much cleaner, which should do a lot for global CO2 emissions even without this gizmo. Of course the necessarily higher prices should help the math.
posted by floam at 6:02 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


floam I think fuel 'being cheap' will cease to hold water as soon as a corporation gets some NGO attention and/or sanctons/war is declared against it's port of registration.
posted by unearthed at 6:06 PM on June 9


war is declared against it's port of registration.
... when would that happen?
posted by floam at 6:17 PM on June 9


Yeah, that seems pretty remote.

Requiring cargo vessels entering & offloading to satisfy some kind of mitigation requirement seems vastly more likely, while still being quixotic -- and if memory serves there are already some requirements like that for scrubbers on ships' smokestacks and it is already routine for there to be shenanigans with that compliance.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:25 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


"Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Sail?"
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:32 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


IMO is in bed with the fuel industry and large shipping companies. There is no real push to make maritime shipping cleaner, and since they have such a low profile, must likely will continue like that for years.

And you all have heard the excuse that the margins are small in shipping.
posted by kadmilos at 6:42 PM on June 9


It'll only get adopted if it's cost effective. The problem with kites (as I recall) is that to prove effective they need to be massive (or numerous) making them impractical. These look cool as hell, there could well be a market in smaller boats: if they cost same/less than a standard sailboat rig. Ease of use is a good thing.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:36 PM on June 9


It's a mess of unit conversions and sources, but to get a sense of the money, a large container ship can apparently use 60,000 gallons of fuel a day at cruising speed. Say 50,000 assuming they are running a bit slower to save fuel, as I understand is the norm now. That comes to about 180 tons of fuel. The cheapest bunker fuel is about $350 a ton, so that's $60,000 a day in fuel cost. The article states that the 10-20 percent reduction is in overall consumption, so that's a good $10,000 a day under power. Apparently the average container ship travels 150,000 miles in a year. At our fuel saving speed mentioned above (19 knots), that is almost 300 days sailing.

Put it all together, and for a large container ship, we are talking 3 million a year in savings, give or take a million. Ship lifetime is 20 years.
posted by Nothing at 4:12 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Put it all together, and for a large container ship, we are talking 3 million a year in savings, give or take a million. Ship lifetime is 20 years.

Assuming no deterioration for the sails which unfortunately the second law of thermodynamic mandates regardless of which flag of convenience you fly under.

Still an interesting idea and 30 years ago people were poo-pooing the idea of wide spread wind generated electrical power so who knows if this will become something.
posted by srboisvert at 12:49 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


But yeah: 1 1/2 stars

Is that pretty great or pretty terrible?
posted by howfar
as Mrs. Fedora has informed me, the way the Michelin star system works is that the three different star levels indicate "like it," "love it," and "gotta have it"
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:00 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


What's up with these rotor sails that Floam mentioned? Maersk is apparently interested.

"The Rotor Sail technology is based on the Magnus effect. The technology, whose basic concept is known as a Flettner Rotor, was originally invented by Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius and was later demonstrated by Anton Flettner in an Atlantic crossing that took place in 1926."
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:45 AM on June 13


Flettner/Savonius/Magnus - Cousteau Society's main vessel has them - they call it Turbo Sail, which is a pretty peppy name.

I thought I remembered that it didn't work, but it seems pretty functional.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:35 AM on June 13


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