Marine engineers at Lade AS in Norway have designed a freighter with a hull shaped to harness the power of the wind, letting the ship save 60% on fuel costs while emitting 80% fewer emissions.

The ship, dubbed the Vindskip (windship), will use a symmetrical hull with airfoils protruding below the waterline to convert aerodynamic lift created by winds on the forward quarter into a pulling force, powering the ship through the water much like a close-hauled yacht sailing into the wind. And because the Vindskip will also be using a liquid-natural-gas-fired turbine to maintain speeds up to 18 knots, it will almost always be sailing into a relative wind. The designers envision ship captains checking weather reports for wind patterns and then using computers to plot the most economical or quickest course, depending on whether speed or economy is most important.

The initial design was planned as a freighter that can carry 7,000 cars or trucks, about the same as a current freighter. Lades says the design could also be used for passenger and container ships. Images of the design, however, reveal the ship may not be equipped to use modern container technology for loading and unloading cargo. And some maritime observers say the ship does not look like it would fare well in high winds or high seas. Others speculate that the tall ship might need to take on ballast to lower its profile and remain stable in rough waters.

Lades expects to use the patented hull design on an initial ship in about three to four years. In the meantime, the design will undergo testing on computers, in wind tunnels, and in wave tanks.

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Lade AS