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Published on January 31st, 2019 | by Charles W. Thurston

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Dolphin Boat Goes Hybrid With BMW i3 Batteries + Sunflare Panels

January 31st, 2019 by  


An operator of a custom dolphin observation boat has combined Sunflare solar panels with lithium-ion batteries for what may be the first charter vessel of it kind, says the Key West owner. Dubbed “The Squid,” the vessel was designed for tour operator Honest Eco by David Walworth, an MIT-educated boat designer and builder.

The vessel sports Squid has two BMW i3 batteries that weigh in at about 1200 pounds, while the 12 custom-sized modules produce 2000 watts of power and weigh only 120 pounds combined. Sunflare’s light, thin, and flexible CIGS panels have only one-quarter of the weight of traditional solar panels.

The owner says it’s the first of its kind plug-in, lithium ion battery-powered, hybrid charter boat with purely electric motors. Electricity is stored in the batteries, which can be recharged from shore power, the Sunflare panels, or a top EPA tier backup diesel motor.

The Squid is only one of a new wave of catamarans that are being designed by various companies in the U.S. and Europe to operate entirely on renewable energy.

The Squid is one of the first near-coastal hybrid catamaran to make it through the United States Coast Guard certification process, Honest Eco says. The design of the boat and integration of Sunflare panels mean that on the longest days on the water, the boat burns a mere 3 gallons of diesel fuel per trip compared to 14 gallons per trip for a comparable diesel vessel. Since the Squid can carry just over twice the passenger load of the comparable boat, the per person fossil fuel consumption drops from 2.3 gallons per guest to 0.25 gallons per guest, the company says.

Rigid solar panels also have been used on pleasure vessels like the solar-sustainable Silent 55 catamaran that debuted at the last Cannes Festival of Yachting. The 16.7 meter hard-topped vessel features a fold down flush area that provides an unshaded solar array of 49 square meters. During the heat of a summer day in the Mediterranean where it operates, this array is capable of generating 10 kilowatts of power and up to 60 kW-hours over the course of the day, according to Yachting World.

“The boat’s house load is 5-10kWh per day,” explains Jean-Marc Zanni, who designed the 55’s electrical system using 140kWh of Panasonic batteries and the 370W Sunpower panels, the magazine reports. Two silent 30 kW motors drive the S55 to a maximum speed of 12 knots. The vessel also has a backup diesel engine.

The use of carbon and aramid in key areas helps reduce the overall weight of the S55 to 17 metric tons. The lightweight build of the boat still permits a broad 8.47 meter beam and stub keels added to each hull.

Another unprecedented design in the works is the hybrid D80 Daedalus Yacht, which will operate using solar, wind and hydrogen energy, at first launch in November. The 24 meter carbon catamaran has been designed by Michael Reardon, a veteran yacht builder, and Swiss tech entrepreneur Stefan Muff, who created the technology that became the basis for Google Maps, according to Boat International.


The yacht is powered by hydrogen, lithium batteries from BMW, carbon wind turbines, and solar energy from Solar Cloth a flexible photovoltaic textile. The solar cloth, a flexible CIGS solar film, will be used for the catamaran’s trampoline and sails, along with 35 square meters of solar panels. The D80 is designed to sail 1.4 to 1.7 times the speed of true wind speed.

The hydrogen process involves filtering “highly purified seawater through a PEM-proton exchange membrane, where the pure deionized water (H2O) is split into its constituent parts, hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), via an electrochemical reaction,” the company says. “A DC voltage is applied to the electrolyzer, water is fed to the anode (or oxygen electrode) and is oxidized to oxygen and protons, releasing electrons. The protons (H+ ions) pass through the PEM to the cathode (or hydrogen electrode), where they meet electrons from the other side of the circuit and are reduced to hydrogen and stored in carbon-fiber reinforced tanks thus drastically improving weight to storage ratios,” the company explains.

“When then the batteries are in need of more energy than is being provided from nature outside air is delivered to the fuel cell stack. Hydrogen travels from the tanks to the fuel cell stack. There, it goes through a chemical reaction involving the oxygen in the air, the resultant current is used to re-charge the batteries,” Daedalus says.

Honest Eco operates in a wildlife refuge that was set up over 100 years ago. Its mission is to use amazing wildlife experiences to help foster conservation and inspire others to make decisions that center around the good of the environment. The waters surrounding the lower Florida Keys provide a year round home for about 200 wild Bottlenose Dolphins.

Laverne, California–based Sunflare claims to be the first company to successfully mass-produce light, thin, flexible, and durable CIGS solar panels. These panels can seamlessly integrate into existing commercial roof structures, new architecture and manufactured products that need power without adding weight or interrupting the aerodynamics or design lines.

Magdalensberg, Austria–based Silent Yachts produces what they call the first and only oceangoing production yachts in the world that are fully solar sustainable and powered by solar energy. The company’s vessel design is a modular and scalable system is simpler, needs less maintenance and costs less than any conventional fuel-depending propulsion and energy-supply, the company says. The company also has offices in Ft. Lauderdale and Langen, Germany.

Daedalus Yachts is based in Edenton, NC, and claims to be the only serial producer of carbon yachts over 60 feet in the United States. 
 
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About the Author

Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.



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