Vulkan Hybrid Architect: BIIM, a 13-meter hybrid, innovative indeed

From theory to practice, the Vulkan Hybrid Architect division joined by area companies with established know-how has created BIIM, a prototype boat adopting environmentally sustainable solutions

Sailing in silence is a BARCHE column already well known. It was born, a few months ago, to answer a question: can we (not only) imagine a boat, which, having reached an isolated bay or sailing at night under the stars, allows to appreciate only “the sound” of the waves of the sea, without giving up the power of the old, dear diesel engine? And here a chorus of sailors will rise up compactly! But sailing is not for everyone, and it is precisely in the powerboat industry in recent months that we have been able to experiment with ECO and sustainable solutions, different in their architecture and propulsion system design, because different are the boats and the needs of the owners who will use them.

May 2020

BIIM Vulkan Hybrid Architect

FILSE-Regione Liguria publishes a call for proposals co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 whose title reads:


The call aims to promote the implementation of complex industrial research and experimental development projects. Precise eligible areas have also been identified: among them, marine technologies.

Nothing could be more inspiring for the group of engineers at Vulkan Hybrid Architect, who have already had a prototype boat in their heads for a few months that could integrate and be used on the Ligurian territory. Often, it is known, unity is strength. In order to create an experimental, complex and innovative project, Vulkan Hybrid Architect is enthusiastically joined by companies in the area: each brings its own know-how and specific expertise.

BIIM Vulkan Hybrid Architect

The vessel will be the result of the aggregation and fusion of different competencies:

  • Duferco, leader of the ATS, is in charge of managing the project at the organizational level
  • MAR.S is in charge of the logistics of the vessel, operational validation and management of sea trials
  • NAMES is responsible for the splendid ship design
  • Costruzioni Navali Tigullio makes the hull and the entire superstructure of the vessel
  • Blue Energy Revolution has the burden and honor of fuel cell management and Hydrogen storage.

Thus the idea of the BIIM, Innovative Modular Hybrid Boat, was born, and its design got under way in November of the same year.

The basic idea is the realization of a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system that has the following characteristics:
– modular and scalable, depending on different vessel needs and layouts;
– compact,
both peculiarities that allow easy conversion of traditional diesel propulsion to hybrid propulsion, even on existing boats.

March 2021

ATS sees award of the Call for Proposals recognized.
Indeed, the BIIM project is awarded that mix of innovation, attention to sustainability and concreteness, essential elements of the Call for Proposals itself: it is also a solution applicable to the Ligurian territory.

July 2021

Costruzioni Navali Tigullio begins construction of the hull, while the other companies handling the preparatory aspects related to propulsion and power management are in the midst of design.

Vulkan Hybrid Architect has an important role: designing a new “SMART” propulsion architecture in line with the now-defined European road-map that will mandate the achievement of carbon neutrality 2050.

Based on the expected characteristics of the vessel, as a small prototype with the goal of sailing up to twelve knots, the Vulkan Hybrid Architect Team studies a parallel hybrid propulsion solution: through the Vulkan Hybrid Drive, the diesel engine is connected to an electric motor.


Electric mode of operation-ZERO EMISSIONS.
When the operator selects electric mode, the gearbox is excluded and the electric motor transmits power to the propeller through the Vulkan Hybrid Drive system. The diesel engine can be switched off.

Diesel mode of operation – POWER GENERATION.
When diesel mode is selected, the inverter transmits power to the rest of the line. The propulsion operates as a standard diesel propulsion. In this sailing mode, the electric machine can be used as a generator to power the on-board electric load and/or recharge the batteries.

ELECTRICAL MODE – gearbox excluded

Vulkan Hybrid Architect

DIESEL MODE – gearbox in the socket.

Vulkan Hybrid Architect

Power flows in electric operation mode

Zero-emission navigation-the electric motor is powered by the batteries; the diesel engine is not in operation.

Power flows in diesel operation mode

The electric machine acts as a variable-speed generator, recharging the batteries and supplying power to the on-board electrical load.

Without getting too much into technicalities, the system allows a dual mode of operation (in addition to the traditional diesel):
– Full electric, with only the electric motor powered by batteries: a speed of 7 knots and a range of about 4 hours (6 hours with the fuel cells intervention), without any emission of polluting gas into the atmosphere
– Traditional diesel, with the electric motor acting as a generator, recharging the batteries and thus realizing the efficiency of the whole system

Innovation and sustainability do not stop there, of course
– Costruzioni Navali Tigullio, based on a project by Names, builds a composite hull made of wood and natural fibers (100% recyclable): the use of natural fibers and resins will also make the construction’s exterior waterproofing process (WTS) eco-compatible
– The batteries installed are salt (sodium nickel chloride), safe because they are non-flammable and 100% recyclable
– The 45 kW PEM fuel cell is supported by 100 kWh of hydrogen storage through a system using metal hydrides, and thus also 100% recyclable

However, back to our story

March 2022

The VHD takes shape, the design part is concluded, and the prototype construction phase begins: he will be the star on the Vulkan booth during the METS days in November, and on his return from Amsterdam, he undergoes a period of bench testing with simulation of various operating conditions.

First months of 2023

A concurrent ATS activity begins, but more importantly, a close collaboration between Costruzioni Navali Tigullio and Vulkan, for the on-board installation of all equipment and testing

The project continues, with its pressing schedule, and concludes with the launching of BIIM in Lavagna on 03/31/2023.

BIIM Vulkan Hybrid Architect

Is this the end of our story? Certainly not, just the beginning of a new adventure that will see it in use at the Golfo dei Poeti Consortium in La Spezia in the coming months, so as to test its reliability and safety.

In the coming months you may tell of seeing it plying the waters of the Ligurian Sea, with its gray livery and unmistakable blue band on the broadside, but you won’t be able to say you heard it!

(Vulkan Hybrid Architect: BIIM, a 13-meter hybrid, innovative indeed – – May 2023)