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Biodiesel powered multihull launched

FEB. 27 — A powerboat that is said to run solely on biodiesel fuel was launched Wednesday off Auckland, New Zealand.

The 78-foot trimaran, called Earthrace, was designed with “wave-piercing” technology, which allows it to cut through waves more than 20 feet high, according to information on the project’s Web site . In September 2006 the boat’s owners hope to voyage to North America to set off on an attempt to make the fastest global circumnavigation, east-to-west, in less than 65 days. The current record of 75 days was set in 1998 by the crew of the British boat, Cable & Wireless.

The Earthrace project was announced at the 2005 Miami International Boat Show. The trihull is powered by a pair of 540 hp Cummins Mercruiser Diesels. The boat’s Kiwi owner, Pete Bethune, says vegetable fuel delivers between 3 percent more and 4 percent less power than petroleum diesel. It also is nontoxic, biodegradable, renewable and produces much lower emissions than regular diesel fuel, he says.

Before the record attempt, Earthrace will tour New Zealand, stopping over at major cities to help promote the use of renewable fuels. Biodiesel fuel can be made from a number of products, including processed vegetable, soy, coconut, palm and mustard seed oils. It can even be produced from animal and human fat.

Jason Fell