The EU Approves Funding for Wind-Powered Car Carrier

Image:  Wallenius Wilhelmsen
Image: Wallenius Wilhelmsen

The European Union is giving a shipping company millions in funding for the development of a car carrier that uses sails to transport cars around the world. Wallenius Wilhelmsen will receive an initial €9 million (or $9.7 million) grant from the Horizon Europe fund to kick off a round of research and development for the Orcelle Wind. According to Automotive Logistics, the ship could set sail as early as 2026 with its first shipment of EVs from Volvo, which is one of the partner companies involved in the project.

Wallenius’ says that the timeline for the project is tentative, however, and highly dependent on “overcoming technical challenges and finding a viable business case for the vessel.” It could also be difficult to secure yard availability for the sail ship, as Auto Logistics notes, and that could delay the vessel’s operation.

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Image:  Wallenius Wilhelmsen
Image: Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Wallenius expects that the Orcelle Wind will be about 220 meters long (722 feet), with an estimated beam width of 40 meters (131 feet) and it will have an overall capacity of 7,000 vehicles. It’ll be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 10-12 knots (about 12-14 miles per hour) when relying on its sails alone. But the Orcelle could have an onboard supplemental power system to help speed it along, and for use in unfavorable weather conditions.

Of course, the idea is to rely on the sails the majority of the time, and Wallenius says its wind-powered ship could reduce emissions by up to 90 percent when compared to the most efficient cargo ships currently used. The Orcelle project has been ongoing since 2021 with 11 different companies contributing their expertise, including Volvo.

This latest round of funding will be funneled to all project partners, as Wallenius explains:

The grant of EUR 9m is divided between eleven partners - all bringing something unique to the table. Together, they represent a 360-degree perspective on wind propulsion – including weather routing, vessel design, supply chain orchestration and crew training to test rig installation on an existing vessel. The project’s scope is to make the Orcelle Wind ready for commercial trading.

The grant from the EU’s Horizon fund will mostly go to the R&D required to prove the Orcelle Wind is, indeed, suitable for commercial use as a roll-on roll-off cargo ship. Part of that testing is going to involve rigging a “wing sail test rig on an existing Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel during mid-2024...” but the sail ship concept shows promise. And the EU’s funding is just the latest vote of confidence in the Orcelle, which could one day help the industry greatly reduce its carbon footprint.

Image:  Wallenius Wilhelmsen
Image: Wallenius Wilhelmsen

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