India’s first solar ferry is getting ready to be launched shortly. The ferry, with a capacity of 75 passengers, will not pollute water and air, be silent for the passengers and the environment and have little operational expenditure as it will not require any fuel.
A Kochi-based firm is engaged in building this commercially-operational ferry for the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD). NavAlt Solar & Electric Boats Pvt. Ltd. is a clean energy startup which aims to create a cleaner and commercially viable inland water transport system. It was founded in 2013 by Sandith Thandasherry, who has a degree in Naval Architecture from IIT, Madras and an MBA from INSEAD, France.
Sandith worked for some years in the ship building sector and then went on to do an MBA before setting up his own firm Navgathi Marine Design & Construction in 2008. Navagathi had already been into designing for shipyards and making dredging vessels. Sandith founded NavAlt along with two Frenchmen, Philippe Pallu and Frederic Meniere. While Philippe is also the founder of Alt.En, a French firm with experience of designing solar boats, Frederic is the president of EVE Systems, a leading firm specialising in design of electric vehicles.
NavAlt was created to provide eco-friendly solutions to issues such as reduction of energy consumption, reduction of polluting emissions and noise and technical and economic advancement of boating industry. The firm was lucky to get a work order from KSWTD, which is now under implementation.
The ferry would be 20m long, 7m wide and have a maximum cruising speed of 7.5 knots. It would work on 40 kW propulsive power. Although the solar ferry costs more than the regular diesel ferry, it leads to substantial savings in operational cost. As per the manufacturers, the ferry has a break-even of six years. The benefits of lesser pollution and protection of environment would be in addition.
The traditional diesel boats emit huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the environment. If such ferries are a success, they have the potential of changing the environment of the inland waterways in Kerala. Watch out for the date of launch.