More than 3,000 miles, not a single drop of gasoline: That is the plan. Team Malizia, skippered by Pierre Casiraghi and Boris Herrmann, has now left Plymouth and set sail for New York City. On board the high-tech racing yacht Malizia II is 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. In order to avoid the extremely high carbon emissions from air travel, she chose to make the 2-week transatlantic journey via sailboat to attend the upcoming UN climate summits in New York and Chile.
Torqeedo, electric boating specialists, provided electric support vessels to help Team Malizia leave the dock and travel safely out of the harbour to avoid using the small onboard engine. Millions around the globe will follow Team Malizia on their journey west – with their hearts and via social media.
Sailing across the Atlantic in August, against the prevailing winds, is an adventure. But the trip is also a powerful symbol: The team will demonstrate that it is indeed possible to switch to climate neutral mobility. The challenge might still be substantial, but the technology exists and is maturing every year.
“Convincing governments and international institutions to enforce laws that will protect mankind and biodiversity is of the utmost importance for the future of humanity,” says Pierre Casiraghi, founder of Team Malizia and co-skipper. “Team Malizia and I are proud to take Greta across the Atlantic in this challenging mode of transport. Unfortunately, sailing is still the only way to do so without fossil fuel emissions. Hopefully this will change in the near future.”
As estimated by the non-profit Atmosfair, a round trip between the UK to New York by plane contributes approximately 3.4 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere, per passenger – according to Eurostat that’s almost 50% of the average yearly carbon footprint per person in the EU (7.2 tonnes). While avoiding air travel is a powerful way to reduce carbon emissions, marine combustion engines also emit high levels of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulates. Driving a boat powered by a single 80-horsepower outboard for one hour emits pollution equivalent to more than 350 automobiles driving at highway speed for the same amount of time.
Team Malizia is deeply involved in the fight against climate change and this is reflected by their technological set-up: The high-tech foiling sailboat Malizia II is equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines to generate electricity during the journey (the onboard engine will only be used in emergencies). Torqeedo-powered electric boats assist Team Malizia with docking, towing, passenger transport and general harbour support that would typically be provided by combustion-powered boats. With good reason: Switching to electric drives reduces CO2 by up to 95% (depending on the vessel’s usage pattern and the source of the electricity used for charging).
“At Torqeedo we are working to change the way the world moves on the water, making it cleaner, safer and more sustainable,” says CEO and co-founder, Dr Christoph Ballin. “We strongly support Team Malizia and the work they do and are thrilled to play a part in helping them complete their mission.”
Each day, up to 2,500 planes fly across the Atlantic. Of course, not every one of the tens of thousands of airline passengers can sail across the ocean instead. But, the zero-emission transatlantic crossing could help to change our perspective on when air travel really is necessary, and which options are technologically feasible.
“Fighting the climate crisis requires that we all take a hard look at not only our individual choices, but also at the stands we choose to take as business leaders, as politicians and as citizens,” says Dr Ballin. “We have the technology to build better, cleaner transportation, whether it’s over land, in the air, or on the sea. It’s time we do so.”