A new concept cargo ship equipped with giant composition sails to augment the engine has been designed by a team at the University of Tokyo
The sails will be made from 5 sheets of aluminium and fibre reinforced plastic, and will each stand 164 feet tall and 65 feet wide. The 5 sheets which make up each sail will be individually controlled by motors to be raised or lowered depending on the strength of the wind, or turned on an angle in order to catch the most wind.
Kiyoshi Uzawa, the professor in charge of the team, said that they predict their sails will cut fuel consumption by about 30 percent. They have already performed several simulations for common routes, such as Yokohama to Seattle and found that the ships only used about two thirds of the normal fuel consumption.
At $2.5 million for each sail, they are not cheap, but with the expected fuel savings the cost should be made back within five to ten years (although there is no mention as to the life-span of the sails).
The next step for Uzawa and his team is to build a half-sized prototype for sea trials in 2016.