Solar boats are of course the thing we are looking for here. Small or large, with a traditional design or futuristic ones. Some are designed for recreational purposes while others are build to break records, some are build by professionals and yet others are build by enthusiast. But we love them all!
Grove Boats is based in Switzerland on lake Geneva and is dedicated to building solar powered boats. Their design is relatively traditional, especially compared to some of the other solar boats described here. The boat is fully powered by electricity and can be charged by either the sun or connecting her to shore power.
Grove Boats is designing and building a range of commercial electric boats. Their boats can be found all around the world, of course mostly in sunny places to take full advantage of the build-in solar panels.
First the Firefly. A small little pontoon style boat, powered by the sun.This little boat was built in Canada of under $3000, which in itself is already impressive. She sails about 4 – 6 knots and gets energy from a home made solar panel. It is definitely cute, but I don’t think she is going to conquer the world just yet.
Solar Powered Ferry
TreeHugger has made a nice collection of Solar Boats. They ragen from small to large. One that got my attention is this ferry which is operating in Hamburg. This is ferry is commercially exploited in the harbour area of Hamburg to take short day trips. Its futuristic design has build in solar panels to charge the ferries batteries. Just like the Firefly above, it is a catamaran. On a warm and sunny day it would be great to take trips on this boat, but there is no protection against wind or cold weather, which can be a problem on the water.
EloTri Solar Boat
Another design of a solar boats was reported by Energy Matters in Australia. It is an EloTri designed down under and has a modern classic design. Al though the post is already about two years old, not much news can be found about this boat or whether it is successfully being sold. The price range of $45.000 might be an issue. Unfortunately the pictures are too small to add here, so have a look at the website yourself.
Solar Boat Team
Another category is boats specifically designed for solar boat races. The TU Delft Solar Boat Team is very successful in the Dong Solar Challenge, they are already working on a new boat for the 2016 challenge. As you can see, the boat cannot be used for recreational purposes, but it is a very cool boat!
As with car races, techniques developed at the highest levels of the sport, will eventually find there way to recreational users. So we can only support these guys and follow the developments they make.
We have already talked about PlanetSolar on this website before. Planet Solar is the first solar powered vessel to have circumnavigated the globe. And again, this boat is not for recreational purposes, she was build to sail around the world on only solar power. To achieve that, every inch of her top deck is covered in solar panels.
Conclusion Overview of Solar Boats
Solar powered boats are a growing business, but it is not growing very fast. All around the globe interesting initiatives are coming up, but the costs of designing a boat powered by electricity are substantial. Another major obstacle is range you can squeeze out of the batteries, for many people this is still way too limited to replace traditional propulsion techniques.