Modern ferries are almost universally diesel powered. While the Earthrace biodiesel powered trimaran is pushing the envelope with bio-fuel, solar is another option with the large flat roof areas for ferry cats and houseboats.
Switzerland’s MW-Line company has been busy commercializing the use of solar power with a range of environmentally friendly solar catamarans for tourism operations, where quietness and non-carbon fuel are major pluses. Now the sun is shining in private leisure boat market.
Sun21 the 14-metre (46 feet) catamaran, the first boat to cross the Atlantic on solar power alone, was in fact a commercially available MW-Line Aquabus C60 – which has a 60 passenger rating.
Its five-man Swiss crew took less than a month for the Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas.
'Sunny days, we used to go 5 to 6 knots, and a little slower when it was cloudy,' says the French-speaking skipper, Michel Thonney, of Moudon, Switzerland. 'I don't understand why everyone doesn't use the sun's power at sea—our voyage was fantastic.'
Thonney has crossed the Atlantic five times, in various vessels. After his latest exploit, though, he is looking for a bigger pond. 'Our next project is named Planet Solar,' he notes. 'We'll use solar power to take a 30-meter boat clear around the world.' 'This proves that in our modern society it is indeed possible to travel the world efficiently and still safeguard the environment.'
The founder of MW-Line is Swiss shipbuilder Mark Wüst. He says MW-Line has built more than 30 Aquabus solar boats for public transportation. These Aquabuses have passenger capacity of between 15 and 75. ‘These electrosolar boats of MW-Line SA are operating on rivers and lakes in France, Switzerland, Germany and France already. The running costs are 20 to 45 times less than for the equivalent powered motor boat.’
Now MW-Line is extending its ranges from Solar Aquabus to leisure boats. It unveiled its latest solar powered houseboat to the public on the lake of Gruyère on Wednesday.
The 8.5-metre (28 feet) Aquabus features a four-bunk cabin, kitchenette and a small bathroom. The cabin’s roof is covered with solar panels supplying the batteries with renewable electricity. The houseboat’s price ranges between US $65,000 to US$110,000.
The boat, driving at a speed of three knots per hour, is noiseless and of course makes no waves.