The old tea clippers of the 19th century may have been slow, but they had one big advantage over modern freighters. They ran on wind. Now an enterprising Swedish company is attempting to combine modern technology with good old renewable wind energy to turn the environmental cost of shipping goods around the world on its head. The Oceanbird is a huge cargo ship which can carry up to 7000 cars (electric we hope), and will be able to cross the Atlantic in around 12 days. The 200 metres long and 40 metre wide ship will feature 80 metre high wing sails, which are electronically deployed and stowed as needed.
The mockups make it look a little top heavy, but maybe that’s just the angle. In any event it definitely is a striking design. The makers, Wallenius, hope to run the maiden voyage in 2024, and if the trials turn out well we could see this goliath plying the seas shortly thereafter. A typical Atlantic crossing takes around seven days, so an extra five days at 90% less energy, may actually make sense. We don’t know the price yet, but we’re not expecting much change out of €10.