India’s first solar boat proves critics wrong
KOCHI: The temple town of Vaikom shot to fame recently as the country’s first solar boat designed by Sandith Thandassery, an entrepreneur and a naval architect, started ferrying from here. The solar boat Adithya came from the stable of a firm co-founded by Sandith -NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats, a joint venture between Navgathi Marine Design & Construction and Alternative Energies (AltEn) and EVE Systems based in France. Two months into the first monsoon after the launch in January, 2017 the solar ferry has proven its critics wrong again by transforming itself into an electric boat during the rains.
“The amount of power we get from the sun during the monsoon is obviously low. So the boat is charged electrically overnight at the jetty. Still, the expenditure is still less than Rs 200, on sunny days the expenditure of charging would go down to Rs 20. A diesel boat needs at least Rs 6,000 to refuel, “said Sandith.
Soon after the launch there were reports of one of the rudders of the boat falling off, which Sandith believes was due to an act of sabotage. According to him there were some groups with vested interest campaigning against the project from the beginning. “There was a professor who was adamant on the claim that the boat won’t run. Some even filed complaints with vigilance claiming that the project is unrealistic and a waste of money. I was confident however throughout, “said Sandith. The noiseless boat with less turbulence was warmly received by passengers. “Though it takes only the same time as its diesel counterpart, people tend to believe that it is slow. So we installed a clock to deal with this misconception, “said Sandith.
They also added music and television sets to deal with the lack of noise.
NavAlt is now working on diesel-powered boats to be used in Vaikom-Ernakulam express waterway. Sandith says that these boats will hit the waters before Onam.
A BTech holder in naval architecture from IIT Madras, Sandith has an MBA from INSEAD in France and industrial experience of more than 16 years. After working in a shipyard in Gujarat for two years Sandith worked as a ship builder in South Korea.