Aditya sails into final of global award

‘The solar ferry was a game changer in Kerala’s water transport sector’

Published - July 06, 2020 08:36 pm IST - Kochi

Aditya, India’s first solar ferry that operates between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu across the Vembanad lake.

Aditya, India’s first solar ferry that operates between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu across the Vembanad lake.

From being one among the 12 ferries in the fray for the coveted Gustave Trouvé Award and the sole entrant from Asia, Aditya — India’s first solar ferry — has sailed into the list of six finalists in the fray for the award that will be announced on July 26.

All the other five finalists in the public transport category are from countries in Europe. The award was instituted in memory of Gustave Trouvé, a French electrical engineer and pioneer in electric cars and boats. Trouvé was a prolific inventor with over 75 patents. Back in 1881, he developed a 5-metre-long prototype electric boat.

SWTD elated

Buoyed by the success of Aditya and its rock-bottom operational cost as compared to diesel ferries, the Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has placed orders for three solar vessels — two ferries and a double-decked tourist vessel from Kochi- based Navalt Solar and Electric Boats, the firm which built Aditya. “The solar ferry was a game changer in Kerala’s water transport sector, so much so that ambassadors and officials of over 40 countries flew down to check it out. The Andaman Nicobar administration too evinced interest in such vessels,” said Shaji V. Nair, Director of SWTD.

The solar ferries that are under construction will be more advanced than Aditya that operates in the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu route. Above all, they will have higher battery capacity to traverse more distance. The first vessel will roll out in a month. “We are awaiting the government’s sanction to procure three more solar ferries, so that our solar-powered fleet would increase to five ferries and an air-conditioned tourist vessel. A few of them might operate in the Kochi backwaters,” Mr. Nair said.

A few experts, including naval architects, were initially sceptical of whether Aditya would be able to operate multiple trips without being berthed for recharging, since it relied exclusively on solar energy. This was proved wrong and the vessel was now vying for global attention, he added.

Economical, non-polluting

The founder CEO of Navalt, Sandith Thandassery, a naval architect who graduated from IIT-Madras, said that Aditya had so far transported over 11 lakh passengers and traversed distance of 70,000 km (22 daily trips, carrying a maximum of 75 passenger per trip), without relying on a single drop of fossil fuel. It thus saved KSWTD over 1 lakh litres of diesel, worth approximately ₹75 lakh. “It needs a meagre ₹180 per day as energy cost, vis a vis approximately ₹8,000 that would be required for a diesel-run ferry of similar size.”

The vessel cost ₹2 crore and stakeholders hoped that it would achieve break-even in another few years. “It is unusual to find high-technology products with such low break-even period. The vessel is also zero polluting as compared to conventional ferries,” Mr. Thandassery said.

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