Although there are solar-powered boats in operation around the world, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Dutch company Soel Yachts wants to play a part in championing cleaner modes of water transportation, starting with the SoelCat 12 electric catamaran launching in New Zealand this week.
The zero-emission yacht is capable of carrying 16 passengers and requires no fuel. It instead draws its power from a roof-mounted 8.6 kWp solar array, which combines with two 60 kWh batteries and two 30 kW electric motors for a top speed of 14 knots. This propulsion system is what drove the design of the 12-meter (39-foot) fiberglass vessel, as designer David Czap explains.
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"One cannot just take any existing hull shape, add an electric motor and hope that it achieves a range of 150 nautical miles," he says. "Efficient electric propulsion requires an entirely different approach from nowadays technologies and practices. Therefore, all our vessels are integrally designed from start to finish for and with electric propulsion and the specific duty cycle in mind."
How far the boat can travel depends, unsurprisingly, on the sun and the speed. At a cruising speed of eight knots, the SoelCat 12 can run for six hours using only battery power. With the sun shining, this extends to 7.5 hours, while putt-putting along at six knots, which is described as the "break-even speed," can see it run for as long as 24 hours, including through the night.
The boat can be customized to include different seating arrangements like simple benches or classier lounges for high-end resorts, complete with a fully equipped bar. Passengers can use an iPad or iPhone to hook up to the control systems via onboard Wi-Fi, allowing them to track the energy levels and play music from their device.
It seems that Soel Yachts isn't so much targeting private boat owners with the SoelCat 12. Rather, it lists water taxi services, reef excursions and transport around on-water resorts as examples of where it could prove useful. Conveniently, when the boat is not in use it can be parked and used as a power station, feeding up to 15 kVa of solar energy back into the grid, which the company says is enough to power up to five households.
The first SoelCat 12 is launching in Auckland, New Zealand this week, but the company hopes to ship it all over the world. To that end, it has designed it as a modular vessel that can be made to order and the pieces packed into 40-ft (12-m) shipping containers for assembly on arrival. According to Business Insider, prices start at around US$600,000.
Source: Soel YachtsView gallery - 18 images