Marine

World's first ocean-going solar yacht could cruise indefinitely – if you take it slow

World's first ocean-going sola...
The SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely on solar power if you take it slow and luck out on the weather
The SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely on solar power if you take it slow and luck out on the weather
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The rear stairs are one of the only places you can get some sun yourself; the boat wants the rest for itself
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The rear stairs are one of the only places you can get some sun yourself; the boat wants the rest for itself
Solar-electric cruising: the SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely at 5 knots if the Sun's shining
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Solar-electric cruising: the SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely at 5 knots if the Sun's shining
A quick top speed of 22 knots will run the battery down
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A quick top speed of 22 knots will run the battery down
With 800 kWh of battery capacity on board, and 1,000 kilowatts of electric propulsion, range is not exceptionally long if you run this thing flat out
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With 800 kWh of battery capacity on board, and 1,000 kilowatts of electric propulsion, range is not exceptionally long if you run this thing flat out
The SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely on solar power if you take it slow and luck out on the weather
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The SolarImpact can cruise indefinitely on solar power if you take it slow and luck out on the weather
SolarImpact interior
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SolarImpact interior
Accommodations for 10 guests and a crew of one
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Accommodations for 10 guests and a crew of one
Twin torpedo-shaped buoyancy hulls under the waterline keep things comfy on board, reducing roll by up to 90 percent
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Twin torpedo-shaped buoyancy hulls under the waterline keep things comfy on board, reducing roll by up to 90 percent
Four double bedrooms and one master, with less salubrious crew accommodations
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Four double bedrooms and one master, with less salubrious crew accommodations
SolarImpact interior staircase
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SolarImpact interior staircase
SolarImpact interior
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SolarImpact interior
SolarImpact: fully digital helm. This yacht uses a lot of automation and even some artificial intelligence to make piloting it a one-man job
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SolarImpact: fully digital helm. This yacht uses a lot of automation and even some artificial intelligence to make piloting it a one-man job
SolarImpact's spacious interior
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SolarImpact's spacious interior

It's quick, it's quiet, and it's covered in 300 square meters (3,229 sq ft) of solar panels. The 78-ft (24-m) electric SolarImpact yacht is a concept designed as the first of its kind – an ocean-going solar-powered yacht. An 800-kWh battery on board gives it 10 hours of cruising capability, which can be extended by topping up the battery when the Sun's shining.

The yacht's giant solar array, which covers the vast majority of its upward-facing surfaces, can generate up to 320 kWh a day if they're getting lots of sun. They can serve as the vessel's sole power source if conditions allow, and you're prepared to take your time.

Although this 70-ton aluminum-hulled beast boasts 1,000 kW (1,341 hp) of all-electric power and has an impressive maximum speed of 22 knots, if you're running all the regular systems solely on solar, you will be able to cruise indefinitely, but only at a slow 5 knots – which would take you around the world in about six months if there wasn't a whole lot of land in the way. Speed it up and the battery will run down.

By comparison, a regular yacht of a similar size would burn some 100 liters (26 gal) of fuel an hour at a 10-knot cruise, a number that would cause the average 80-ft yacht owner exactly zero distress, but to the degree a large yacht can be eco-friendly, this one is.

With 800 kWh of battery capacity on board, and 1,000 kilowatts of electric propulsion, range is not exceptionally long if you run this thing flat out
With 800 kWh of battery capacity on board, and 1,000 kilowatts of electric propulsion, range is not exceptionally long if you run this thing flat out

We say large yacht instead of superyacht because the SolarImpact falls an inch or two short of the 79-ft (24-m) cutoff point above which certain countries mandate you need to have a permanent crew on board.

Should the Sun not shine upon your voyage, there's a pair of 65-kW (87-hp) range-extending diesel engines on board as a backup. And the drive systems are automated, apparently using some sort of AI assistance, to the point where a single person can maneuver it. Certainly, the helm looks pretty simple for something of this size.

SolarImpact: fully digital helm. This yacht uses a lot of automation and even some artificial intelligence to make piloting it a one-man job
SolarImpact: fully digital helm. This yacht uses a lot of automation and even some artificial intelligence to make piloting it a one-man job

The SolarImpact also has an interesting stabilizing technology rolled in – twin torpedo-shaped buoyancy hulls under the water surface that the company says reduce side-to-side rolling by as much as 90 percent, making it comfortable even when the waves are high. The interior is about as fancy as you'd expect, with reasonably luxurious accommodations for 10 guests and a crew of one.

The concept was unveiled at last week's Cannes Yachting Festival, including a full 3D modelfor potential buyers to explore the vessel virtual reality.

Check out the yacht in the extremely short, 15-second video below.

Source: SolarImpact

SOLARIMPACT YACHT

17 comments
martinkopplow
Finally! This is long over due. About five years ago, I had the opportunity at the helm of a solar only powered passenger ferry on a channel here in Germany. The vessel was similarily laid out, maybe a tad smaller than this ship, and of course not as black, though already pretty cool. Unfortunately, it never went into regular service due to stupid public water transport laws that could not be easily adapted to this kind of power train. What a pity, they had to scrap it. Good luck with this one!
minivini
This is still a ways off from a solar powered cruise ship, but given the option, I’d cruise solar 100% of the time over diesel, gas, or natural gas power.
jd_dunerider
5 knots isn't much slower than the average speed of a sailing vessel. Throw a sail kite on to give a boost when it would be reasonable to do so and you'd be golden.
Douglas E Knapp
Dj_dunrider, you are correct. 5 nts is a good speed. If you were to do a round the world cruise it would be enough and sailors do use some diesel is most cases. Also you often stop for a week here and there as you go because you are not out to really sail around the world nonstop but to have fun. During these stops the battery would top off. I wonder how fast you could go with full batteries and solar for one day?
jerryd
There are better ways to go For instance a kite sail can not only move the yacht but generate power through the prop sand can be automatically deployed. There are few boats that 1 person doesn't control everything. And you generally island, post hop with only a few long ocean sails.
garenad
I am not a yacht aficionado but this solar powered craft could have added a pair of concealed masts to compensate the shortfall of 800Kh batteries, sail while the batteries are being charged also, for a good measure a pair of stabilizers with additional solar cells would add capacity and sail around the globe non stop.
Lardo
I admit to not knowing much about boats, (I'm more an airplane kind of guy) but isn't 78ft rather small for an ocean voyage? Seems like you'd get tossed around, a lot, in heavy seas.
phissith
What the hell do I do if there a prolong thunder storm and cloudy days at sea?
SamfromCalif.
What would this solar yacht cost? Any idea?
flyerfly
Neat concept. I am curious as to who would be the customers though. The people that can afford one can also afford fuel...and usually do not like to waste time in transit. There are many large boat owners that don't even ride their boats in transit because they don't want to spend the time...so maybe slow is not bad. I would love one...but I could never afford one so it is a pipe dream. The idea of being largely independent is huge for me as well as sailing cruisers. Hope it works.