It is slow and travels only a short distance, but builders of the Serpentine Solar Shuttle say it's the most advanced passenger ferry on British waters. Britain's biggest solar-powered boat debuted Tuesday on a lake in London's Hyde Park, opening what its developers hope is a door to the future of solar-powered transportation. The Serpentine Solar Shuttle - powered entirely by the sun - cruises at 5 mph and carries 42 passengers. "This is the most technologically advanced shuttle in the world right now," said designer Christoph Behling, who also designed the world's largest solar boat in Hamburg, Germany. "It is made of entirely stainless steel which means it never gets old. It will pave the way for future boats and trains and other means of transportation," Behling said. The 48-foot-long shuttle has 27 solar panels on its roof, and the energy generated by the sun is enough to keep the boat running. Its maximum journey distance is 82 miles.
Almost no pollutants are given off during the trip because the shuttle has two silent engines - meaning there are no carbon emissions and it is also charged fully by the sun. Even on those dark, rainy days everyone associates with London, Behling said there will be enough sun to keep the ship running. It is expected the boat will save nearly 5,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide per year, compared with a diesel boat of a similar size, according to Gavin Gomes, a spokesman for Sputnik Communications, a London-based energy company. When the ferry is idle, surplus electricity generated by the solar panels will be fed back into the national transmission network. The Serpentine Solar Shuttle cost $421,000 to build - 20 percent more than a diesel boat of a comparable size, Behling said.
He is now working on a 300-passenger solar-powered ferry to run on the Thames, and hopes it could be ready in 2008. A 60-passenger solar-powered train for London's Battersea Park is also in the works.