As it completes one year, the first passenger ferry solar boat and the only such in Asia has proven to be a success on several fronts. Aditya, operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD), was put into service last January. The boat plies between Thavanakadavu and Vaikom ferries connecting Alappuzha and Kottayam districts.
According to KSWTD traffic superintendent M Sujith, the catamaran-type boat, with the capacity to carry 75 passengers, has made a saving of around I 20 lakh in fuel charge in one year of service, with only I163 being spent per day for charging its battery for the evening service. “No maintenance charge was needed in the past year. Also, environmental and sound pollution have reduced drastically,” he said.
An officer said, “A motorboat costs above I25 lakh in fuel charge per year. This boat needs only three workers, while a motorboat needs five workers. This way we can save more than I 50,000 per month and also avoid the large-scale atmospheric and sound pollution created by diesel boats. The boat is equipped with ultramodern facilities, including eco-sounder, GPS, hydraulic steering and automatic pump to remove water from the haul. Cusat’s Department of Ship Technology had designed the boats.
“It moves like a wind boat, with no sound. The motorboats create a huge sound and it becomes an irritation to passengers and employees. A motorboat needs two shranks, two laskar and one driver, but the solar boat needs only one shrank and two laskars,” said a staff.On sunny days, the batteries do not require charging. On cloudy days, the battery can be charged from an electric line. So the shortage of power will not affect the running of the boat, the employee said.
The boat was constructed for the KSWTD for an estimated cost of Rs 1.79 crore; a catamaran-type motor boat costs around I1.5 crore. The boat was constructed at the KSWTD’s boat construction yard at Aroor. Lithium batteries in the boat are using for storing power. The boat achieves a speed of 14 nautical miles which is almost equal to that of motor boats. Sujith said, the department has been planning to construct another 100-seat capacity solar boat for cruising the backwaters of Alappuzha and the design work is in progress.