Solar-powered solution for water transport

Two new solar-powered electric boats are providing waterbus services in the French port of La Rochelle.

The zero-emission catamarans are equipped with solar panels. They were built and launched by local firm Alternative Energies, which develops and produces passenger transport boats powered by alternative energies.

Named 'Copernic' and 'Galilée', they will provide a shuttle service connecting La Rochelle's Old Port with the harbour of Les Minimes.

With an operating speed of 6 knots (12km/h), 100km autonomy and a maximum speed of 9.5 knots, the boats can sail in normal shipping conditions (current and waves). Each weighs 18 tonnes in total to provide a maximum carrying capacity of 75 people. They should be able to make 15 trips a day during the summer season.

Industrial battery specialist Saft supplied three nickel-cadmium battery systems for each boat: two at 480V are dedicated to propulsion and one 24V service battery feeds the equipment on board. They were chosen to achieve the best compromise between weight, power capacity, lifespan and recharge speed.

Electric boats are seen as an attractive option in ports because they reduce odour emissions dramatically and completely cut greenhouse gas emissions (CO2). They also represent real progress in terms of passenger comfort, as they greatly reduce noise and vibrations.

Alternative Energies is currently working in collaboration with shipping organisations or ship owners on other development projects which aim to equip more municipal authorities with electric boats.

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