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An Interview with Luisa Bonello of Vita Yachts

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

While technological advancement has progressed at such a breakneck speed in recent years, it may seem that green-technology has often taken a backseat. While phones get sleeker and AI only becoming more sophisticated, the movers and shakers of clean energy still have a way to go in order to overcome the status quo. Despite all the inherent challenges that come with change, Luisa Bonello and the Vita Yachts team have managed to take green technology to new heights, with the creation of the first high-performance electric powerboat — the Vita. 

As avid boat-lovers the Vita team faced the difficult challenge of dealing with the environmental impacts of the powerboating community. With this challenge in mind and the backing of their chairman Stewart Wilkinson, Luisa and the Vita Yachts team set off to create a zero-emissions electric powerboat that performed on the same level as its diesel-powered counterparts. A gruelling 18 months later and with a five-star Clearwater rating and a victory at the prestigious Monaco Energy Challenge, it’s safe to say that they have been successful in their mission. While there is still a long way to go with changing pre-conceived notions about electric powered vehicles, the Vita Yachts’ model proves that electric propulsion can be just as good as diesel, if not better — turning the tide in the fight for our green future. 


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, what gave you the idea for Vita Yachts? 
Vita Yachts actually came about because Stewart Wilkinson was looking for a high-performance electric boat for our personal use and we quickly realised that there was no such thing! After careful research, we made contact with a UK-based naval architect who’d done pioneering work in the field of marine electric propulsion —  and the project took off from there.

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

What inspired you to create the world’s first electric boat? 
We’re all boat-lovers in the company, first and foremost. There can’t be many better ways to spend a day, than being out on the open water with friends and family. Unfortunately, the noise and fuel emissions associated with traditional powerboating are tough to justify, when the state of the marine environment is deteriorating so rapidly. We wanted to create a fully electric, zero-emissions powerboat, that could offer the same levels of style and performance as the leading brands without putting our oceans at risk. With the Vita, we think that we’ve achieved those goals.

How does Vita work? What technological innovation has allowed you forego the traditional gas engine? 
One of our key goals has always been to draw on the advances that have been made in battery technology within the automotive sector, and to bring those benchmarks of efficiency and reliability to the marine industry. Our power and performance team — which, by the way, is about to be headed by a former lead engineer for Mercedes F1 – has developed proprietary throttle and touchscreen technology to integrate 130 kWh of battery storage seamlessly with the Vita’s twin electric water jet drives. The levels of speed and responsiveness that the system provides are, we think, a first in the area of marine electric propulsion.

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

Vita is the first premium electric boat on the market, and you accomplished it from idea to proof to concept in 18 short months. What was this process like? 
Challenging! There are companies far bigger than Vita that take years to develop even the most basic prototype; and we were certainly aware of the enormity of the task we’d set  for ourselves. However, every single member of our team fundamentally believes in the importance of what we’re trying to achieve. They know that they aren’t just building a boat — they’re working to bring about a pivotal shift in our culture. That motivation has helped us to progress as rapidly as we have.

How important is sustainability to the ethos of Vita-Power? 
Sustainability drives everything we do. The Vita is the first powerboat to receive a five-star Clearwater rating for its lack of emissions. Wherever possible, we opt for materials and processes that minimise our environmental impact as a company — we even use a hybrid car to tow the Vita between events! We’re also committed to championing ocean conservation on a broader scale and recently became a sponsor of the Blue Marine Foundation  in an effort to promote the need for sustainable practices throughout the maritime world. 

Vita recently won the offshore speed and endurance races in Monaco, with the Monaco energy challenge — what was it like winning an accolade with such an innovative product? 
It was hugely gratifying. It was our first public outing and to win such a prestigious event so decisively totally validated all the effort of the last two years. Vita may challenge all sorts of pre-conceptions about power-boating, but she certainly didn’t look out of place on that legendary quay.
 
TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the luxury industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species?
The luxury industry is probably the biggest influencer of consumer culture worldwide. Humans are aspirational creatures; we tend to want ‘the best’ and look to luxury brands for inspiration. So the way that the industry behaves and the practices it promotes are absorbed and imitated throughout every walk of life. It’s great that some of the major companies are waking up to their responsibilities. For instance, Stella McCartney is someone who sets a great example in the fashion world  — but there’s still a long way to go. Despite the obvious environmental benefits, there’s still a lot of resistance to electric propulsion in the motorboat community, because it hasn’t yet been able to deliver the premium experience associated with diesel engines. We want to challenge that image in the same way that Elon Musk has done with Tesla. We want to make clean energy cool.

As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
By using our wallets to make our voices heard. If we invest in products that take pride in their environmental credentials while rejecting those that don’t, manufacturers will change their habits pretty quickly. 


Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies

Portraits by Kurt Arrigo


TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE

TWENTY6 MAGAZINE , ISSUE N , VITA YACHTS , SUSTAINABLE LIVING , THE NATURE ISSUE