7 Awesome Solar Boats You Must See

catamaran moored in the water with solar panels on the roof

OlafSpeier / Getty Images

Solar Boats are Awesome
What's more relaxing than a nice sunny day on the water? What's less relaxing than a lake full of noisy motor boats that pollute the air and water? Sometimes, it's just better to take it slow, and solar-powered boats are the perfect compromise.

Let's look at some solar boats we've covered over the year.

Serpentine shuttle floating on the water in front of some trees
Oxyman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Serpentine Solar Shuttle

solar boat photo

Hamburg Solar Shuttle

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Constance Solar Shuttle

Solar Shuttle Boats by SolarLab

The 3 solar boats above were made by SolarLab. The Serpentine solar shuttle (Bonnie checked it out in person) was launched in 2006. It is entirely sun-powered, can carry 42 passengers, and has been operating on Lake Serpentine in the UK. The Hamburg Solar Shuttle was built in 2000 and can carry up to 120 passengers. Its length is 42 meters and top speed is 15 kph. The Constance solar shuttle operates on lake Constance, near the border between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It carries up to 60 passengers at speeds of 15 kph. Its length is 20 meters.

Solar pontoon boat photo

The Loon

The Loon: Solar Pontoon

The Loon, made by Monte Gisborne, is 20 feet long and powered by a custom 738 watt solar panel. Since most recreational boating is done when the weather is nice, solar power is particularly well adapted to the task."On overcast days, eight 6-volt batteries kept them clipping along all day at 5 knots (6 mph). At night, The Loon was plugged into standard electrical outlets at local marinas to recharge its batteries."

Solar Boat photo

Sun 21 Solar Boat

The Sun 21 Solar Boat

The "sun21" was awarded by the Guinness World Records for the fastest transatlantic crossing made completely under solar power. In 29 days, the "sun21" crossed the atlantic ocean from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to Le Marin, Martinique in February 2007. The boat is about 14 m long and 6.6 m wide.The boat is equipped with solar modules, batteries and motors allowing a constant speed of 5-6 knots (10-12 km/h) 24 hours a day, equivalent to the average speed of sailing yachts.

Solar cargo ship photo

Solar sails on a cargo ship.

solar boat photo

Solar Sailor Sun Sails

Reducing the amount of fuel that giant cargo ships burn is a very important goal. One interesting approach is using giant kites, but another is a combo of wind and solar power, the Sun Sails by Solar Sailor. A few months ago Warren wrote:"The 30 metre long sails, festooned in photovoltaic panels are expected to catch enough wind to reduce fuel costs by between 20% and 40%, whilst those PV cells will provide the ships with 5% of their electricity. A computer automatically angles the sails for maximum wind and solar efficiency, and if all goes to plan the sails will have recovered their initial cost within four years."

Solar Sailor at a dock
Nicolas Boullosa / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 

Solar Sailor Hybrid Boats

The solar catamarans by Solar Sailor use the power of the sun, wind, and fossil fuels to move. The solar "wings" you see on top of the boats are not just passive solar panels. They can also be oriented to catch the wind:"Flexibility is key to the wing design, and depending on weather conditions, these two sources are used simultaneously or singularly. The wings move automatically, tracking the sun for optimal solar collection and the wind for optimal sail power. In extreme wind situations, they fold down against boat. Engineered to operate in 40 knots of wind with 300% margin of safety."