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It’s easy being green but is this really motorcruising’s future? DAVID LOCKWOOD tests the latest VW-powered hybrid Greenline 33 cruiser from sunny Slovenia…

Greenline 33

The silence was deafening. Ear to the dash, I'm trying my darnedest to hear the faint whirr that informs you the electric half of VW Marine's TDI 165-5 hybrid engine has taken command. The diesel side to the engine - the same as that found in Audis, VW delivery vans and the German marque's café racers - isn't much less audible, mind you. Compact, clean running and torquey are her other attributes. But when in electric mode, the silence is what's golden.

Hit a switch on the dash of the Greenline 33 sporting the aforesaid Vee Dub donk - the 165hp model in the demonstrator is an upgrade from the base 75hp engine - and you can go from diesel-drive to electric power in a few brief moments. The transition is complete when you hear the bushes engage. From then on, the noise from the water playing on the forward chines and, even more so, gurgling about the all-duty five-blade propeller is more apparent.

Either way, the Greenline 33 pits herself as serious contender if not a champion in the emerging world of hybrid cruisers. An alternative to traditional boats with big, thirsty engines, she is also an option to a yacht. During our test in 5 to 8kts of ghosting sea breeze on Pittwater, we overtook a keelboat with flagging sails. That is, in electric mode, doing a silent but slippery 5kts. You should have seen their startled faces.

But to me, the Greenline deserves as much respect for the fact she doesn't depart from time-proven traditional boating values in order to be different. The collaboration between boatbuilder (Seaway), boat designer (J&J) and engine maker (VW) has resulted in a practical single-cabin weekender with walkaround decks, seamless indoor-outdoor living areas, and a layout that will comfortably sleep a family of four.




A number of prototypes, tank and water testing preceded the production boat we drove. But Seaway is no stranger to building performance hulls. The yard's roots go back to 1983 when its founders started the J&J Designs Studio that quickly made its mark on the European sailing circuit with world championship wins.

Brothers Japec and Jernej Jakopin subsequently offered their services to the big production yards: Jeanneau (what is it about the Js?), Beneteau, Bavaria, Windy, Dufour and more. Meanwhile, Seaway was quietly going about building Shipman custom yachts, reputedly the largest carbon yachts in the world, in its Italian yard. It also builds Skagen motorcruisers from the 50 to a new 70 and bigger (I'm supposing hybrid Skagens are coming too).

But the Greenline is Seaway's latest line, with the 33 tested hereabouts to be followed by a two-cabin 40 to be released in March next year. While aboard the 33 at this year's Sydney boat show, Trade-a-Boat got talking with Tilen Jakopin, mid-30s, sales director of Greenline and son of Jernej. He represents the future of motorboating in environmentally conscious Europe, as much as he believes his Greenline is the way forward.

"We leave the marina [in electric mode] without smoke and little wake. We think this is the way ahead for the industry and we're ahead of the car industry," Jakopen tells us. With twin 200lt diesel fuel tanks, cruising range is up to 700nm in diesel mode, Jakopen says, but more than 1000nm as a hybrid, he claims. In fact, at 2.5kts (who travels this slow?) the boat is said to be self-propelled and boundless.

"The lithium battery has a guaranteed life of 1500 charges, which equates to up to 10 years based on one cycle every two to three days. And we are saying disposing of the batteries will result in one-fifth the damage of conventional marine engines," adds Jakopin.

Meantime, I can't help but notice the fit and finish are five star thanks in part to injection moulding. Add European styling, a coffee maker on the counter, warm timber joinery, and you get a cruiser that feels - and sounds - at one with its surrounds. By the time we have gad down Pittwater we have melded or melted with the Greenline 33. It's kind of sneaky quick, too, in that you cover the sea miles quicker than you might otherwise think.




Having been brought up with conventional fossil-fuel engines, it took some readjustment to come to grips with the VW hybrid technology. The TDI 165-5 is a compact inline five-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel engine with common rail injection. There is an electric motor in series near its ZF transmission then the shaft in a half tunnel and the go-fast/go-slow all-purpose prop.

The engine installation is brilliant in a number of ways, not least being the modicum of space it takes up underfloor. The diesel block sits in a sound box that dampens noise to the point that clatter is non-existent. The engine comes with electronic diagnostics and monitoring on the dash and, if they alert you to an issue, you can then reach all the components, fillers, and strainers easily enough.

Enter Cummins MerCruiser Diesel (CMD), which has teamed up with Volkswagen to jointly develop small diesel marine engines up to 5lt or 350hp that will meet Tier 3 emissions standards in the US in 2012 and Europe in 2014. As such, all future VW servicing will be handled by CMD locally, says the local importers North South Yachting. We're told that train is in motion and servicing by CMD will start this coming January 1. That should be a good thing.

But with the first service on this VW engine at 200 hours, it will be quite a way away based on the 50-hour/year engine average for recreational boaters and, moreover, the fact you disengage the engine when in electric mode and are therefore not clocking hours. In any case, with the factory out to more than a hundred 33s and aiming for 200 a year, it will take a few months to land a new Greenline 33 in Australia. The boat we drove was hull #5 but some refinements have since been made.

Meanwhile, back under the saloon floor, most of the other gear, including the batteries, is housed outside of the engine box in what amounts to an engineering space. This is accessible under the companionway steps that lead down to the cabin (as with a yacht's engine access). Sticking my head in the engineering space, the fitout is again first class and there's real attention to detail. Suffice to say we were impressed.




You can do your head in trying to fathom the workings of the VW hybrid engine on paper. But it's incumbent on me as a communicator to translate that technical info into layman's terms. Take a tip and, if you get the chance, make sure you go for a test run. She makes a lot more sense on the water. But how?

Option 1: Switch on ignition, turn the key to start the 165hp VW diesel engine, advance the throttle, and go boating up to 15kts top speed (10kts with base 75hp VW) with a 9 to 12kt pleasant cruise.

Option 2: Switch on ignition (or switch off diesel engine if it's running), flick switch on dash from diesel to electric, and go boating up to 6kts using the 7kW electric motor. At 4 to 5kts, you can run for four hours or 20nm before recharging.

Either way, a bowthruster comes standard to correct for the single-engine prop walk and, we're told, it's possible to fit a stern thruster, too. One of those Exturn external models would fit the bill.

Of course, electric boats need batteries. The Greenline 33 has three battery banks: a separate 100amp 12V AGM engine-start battery, one 200amp 12V house AGM battery, and a 240amp 48V lithium battery that powers the electric motor and, through the inverter, creates 240V for your onboard outlets, and 12V onboard power from 240V Shorepower and the electric engine/generator.

Needless to say, recharging is a recurrent issue on a boat like this. The six photovoltaic solar panels - they work off light rather than sunshine - on the cabin hardtop generate 1.3kW or up to 80 per cent charge after a full day going nowhere. With the diesel engine running, the adjoining electric motor acts as a 5kW generator that will do the same charging job but in four to five hours. Or plug into Shorepower and recharge to within 70 per cent capacity via the Victron charger/inverter also in that time. Also, thanks to the solar panels, you don't have to leave your boat on Shorepower to keep the fridge cold.

Naturally, if you're running major AC appliances it will take longer to recharge your batteries. But herein is the bit I like - the availability of 240V or AC power without necessarily needing to start your diesel engine and adjoining electric motor/generator. Through the inverter alone you can run the boat's homelike amenities via the appliance-selector switch on the dash. Flick between key items such as air-con (optional and fitted), TV or fridge. Very cool, indeed. And very practical.




At rest, the boat functions as a lifestyle platform despite its cold-climate heritage. A remote control extends the transom to increase cockpit space (by 4m²) and create your own private waterfront pier. Underfloor is abundant dry storage for watersports and fishing gear, while the teak decks continue forward, up sidesteps, to a foredeck with sunpad. For a 33-footer, there's oodles of room in the sun and shade.

An awning window and opening glass door connect the saloon to the cockpit. Instinctively, you wander inside. Although the hip-space through the companionway could be wider, headroom is generous through to the bow thanks to the raised coach house. The aft galley lacks nothing for weekending away: the upright fridge-freezer is a domestic size, the 300lt of water will suffice for three or more days, and fiddle rails and handrails add to the utility.

The dinette will cater for four, whereupon the views unfold through the saloon glass windows, there's a settee that doubles as a daybed or crew bunk, and a flatscreen television to keep you entertained at night. Besides air-con, there are opening side windows and a big cabin hatch. We hear you can get a sliding roof option at the expense of some solar panel charging. Storage exists in lockers, a wetbar and underseat areas. By the way, there is a fetching little ship's anchor in keeping with the boat's nautical style.

There are now moves afoot locally to turn the twin single beds in the one and only cabin into an island berth. They move together to create a double, but an owner wanted a more permanent arrangement. For a couple, the cabin is big and would benefit from a double like, say, a Riviera 4000 Offshore. Although three can sleep aboard comfortably, Seaway says by converting the dinette you can accommodate up to five. I doubt you'd bother. Think of it as a couple's or young family boat foremost.

Lat but not least, the bathroom is generous and equipped with an electric loo, trick pencil-style handheld shower, opening window and vent. Opposite is an oversized hanging locker that, sensibly, will be changed to also serve as a pantry on future Greenline 33s. But by and large, it's all here, at the ready, for a weekend of sustainable pleasure cruising. That we did.




Predictably, the Greenline 33 draws heavily on her yachting heritage. She has a blunt stem and stern to maximise waterline length and, thus, speed. There are hard chines up front but a round bilge back aft. She leans outboard like a yacht in the turns. But only so far. Twin fixed rudders or fins - upon which it is possible to rest the boat when the tide retreats - provide lateral and directional stability. A keel with shoe protects the running gear should you beach or bottom out. When in go-fast diesel-engine mode, the prop tunnel assist with propulsion via the fact the shaft angle is kept low. Draft is just 0.75m.

As touched on, noise levels are greatest from the water playing on the all-purpose prop and, at low speed, the forward chines. Otherwise she's an exceedingly quiet and frugal cruiser. On a typical outing, the boat uses up to four times less fossil fuel per nautical mile than a planing powerboat, claims Tilen Jakopin.

At 5kts, we were electric boating for nix. At 3000rpm and 10.3kts, the 165hp diesel is using just 16lt/h. This climbs to 23lt/h in get-home 12.8kts fast cruise mode at 3400rpm. After which, the boat will run to 15kts but there's an embarrassing trail of black diesel exhaust due to the powerchip fitted for top-end speed, we're told. So we pull on the reins, kill the diesel and idle home in electric mode.

As they say, still waters run deep. And via this, the Greenline makes a statement. Besides, silence is always the hardest of all arguments to refute. 








Handling at low speed was a tad heavy and apparently a lighter oil was to be fitted to the steering. At high speed, up to 15kts, she felt willing and able. But it's in electric mode that the motion is intoxicating if not hypnotic and sedating. If it weren't for the exciting new direction that motorcruising is now heading, the serenity might put us to sleep. But while electric or hybrid boats prefer European canals or lakes, the hybrid gear on the Greenline 33 doesn't detract from her seaworthiness. This is borne out from the Seaway factory photo shoot staged in some seriously messy seas, if not the fact our test boat had radar among other options. Rain, hail or shine, this boat knows no bounds.



loaded w/ VW Marine TDI 165-5, and options




Upgrade to hybrid; engine HP upgrade;  Solar pack; Comfort pack with fridge, hot water, etc; Mooring pack including windlass; Nav pack including full Raymarine fitout; AV package with flatscreen TV; teak decking; covers; electric swimplatform; air-con; electric toilet; and more.




w/ VW Marine SDI 75-5 hybrid engine; $233,333 as non-hybrid diesel only




MATERIAL: Injected one-piece laminate in polyester resin with foam-cored deck
TYPE: "Superdisplacement" round-bilge hull w/ forward chines, prop tunnel and fixed fins
BEAM: 3.49m
DRAFT: 0.7m (inc. props)
WEIGHT: Approx 4800kg




FUEL: 400lt
WATER: 300lt




MAKE/MODEL: VW Marine TDI 165-5
TYPE: Inline five-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel w/ common rail injection and aftercooling, and 7kW electric motor/5kW generator
RATED HP: 165 at 4000rpm (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 2.461lt (each)
WEIGHT: 265kg (each)
PROPS: Five-blade bronze




North South Yachting,
The Quays Marina,
1856 Pittwater Road,
Church Point, NSW, 2105




The Greenline 33 is not a novelty but a bona fide weekender for gadding and greening the Hawkesbury, Gippsland Lakes, the South Aussie gulfs and Tasmania. She's practical, purposeful, stiff and strong, and flush with wet-track form. Inshore of offshore, she will go places on the smell of a diesel or lithium rag. But she's also good value in base diesel-only mode. We forecast the take-up rate of this hybrid variant will be tied not to rising fuel prices, for they are but a trifling cost of owning a boat, but the willingness of boaters to pay a premium to make a statement about their on-water habits. How green is your boat?

Find Greenline boats for sale.


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