India’s first solar ferry is being built by NavAlt Solar & Electric Boats, for Kerala State Water Transport Department. This ferry will be the first commercially viable mode of transport powered by solar energy in India, and may be the world.
With a vision to make water transport more efficient, the original NavAlt team (part of Navgathi Marine Design & Constructions Pvt Ltd) started experimenting with retrofitting a small passenger boat with photovoltaic panels in 2010. A few iterations later, the resultant prototype entered the national Limca Book of Records for the ‘Fastest Solar Boat in India’. But we found out that the boat was not economically viable. After another experiment with fishing boats, we decided to design the mode of transport from scratch.
We identified passenger ferries suitable for an application which would fit in with the strengths of an electric powertrain powered by solar energy. In late 2013, NavAlt team started designing the ferry, and with a catamaran-style hull, advanced materials and improved designing techniques, NavAlt team reduced the weight drastically. To further contain the weight and improve the efficiency and life, Lithium-based battery storage has been utilized. During execution of the project, many challenges were overcome, and India’s first solar ferry will be launched in August 2016.
In the process, we have achieved commercially viable solar-powered mode of transport. Over the next two years, we believe that the cost of solar-powered electric ferries and boats will further go down, completely overhauling a subset of the global water transport industry. We don’t see a reason why someone living under the sun will buy a diesel-powered ferry in the future.