Becker Twisted Fin

Sometimes it really is better to keep it simple in creating innovations that can make a difference.

On my most recent speaking trip, I had a chance to rent a brand new Toyota Prius. It was my first time driving one, and I was not impressed. It took me ten minutes just to figure out how to start the thing and get it moving, and then I was continually distracted by flashy dashboard displays showing me my fuel economy, operating mode, battery status, and a lot of other info irrelevant to the task of driving. The whole effect was of the car continually shouting, look at me, look at how innovative and fuel efficient I am!

Meanwhile my 2003 VW Golf TDI gets similar fuel economy without me having to think about it, and it’s a cheaper car to boot.

Similarly the Becker Twisted Fin, from Hamburg-based Becker Marine Systems, increases the fuel efficiency of container ships without any interaction with the crew, and with no engine modifications required.

The system consists of an integrated funnel and fixed fins placed in front of the propeller. It passively accelerates the flow of water and gives it a preliminary spin before it hits the propeller, enabling the prop to do more work while using less fuel.

Walther Bauer, Becker’s Director Sales and Projects, tells me in an email that the system reduces power demand for ships by 6.4%. That translates to lower fuel costs and reduced carbon immersions for the increasing number of ships that have it installed. Not bad for a simple solution the requires no user involvement.