With all the buzz around efforts to make cars and planes more fuel efficient, it's easy to forget that boats have a lot of room for improvement as well.
On April 11, at the premiere of the Sea Air Space show in Maryland, a tech firm named Zyvex Technologies drove that very point home when they unveiled the Piranha, an unmanned vessel that's 400 percent more fuel efficient than similar models.
Developers achieved the record-breaking milestone after subjecting it to a 600-mile test across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean near Puget Sound, where the boat reached a cruising speed of 25 knots while using 12 gallons of fuel per hour. A similar boat traveling at the same speed would have completed the course while consuming at least 50 gallons of fuel per hour.
With a full tank of gas, Zyvex says that the 54' Piranha can log up to 2,800 nautical miles under open-ocean conditions with waves that exceed 12 feet.
"The most expensive part of operating a boat can be the fuel costs. Since the Piranhagets 2.5 miles per gallon going 25 knots, its operators would only spend one fourth as much on operating costs," said Russell Belden, vice president of Zyvex Technologies.
Much of this improvement is owed to the Piranha's ultra-lightweight nano-enhanced body, which is comprised of a specially-designed carbon fiber infused with carbon nanotubes. Even though the material allows the boat to weigh a nimble 8,400 pounds -- almost five times lighter than a boat of comparable size -- it's reportedly 40 percent stronger than common ship metals.
Defense contractors have begun evaluating the Piranha for potential use in a variety of applications, which include anti-piracy, harbor patrol, and oceanographic surveying.