Scheduled to arrive back at its beginning port of Monaco today, May 4th, the Turanor PlanetSolar has just completed a 19 month voyage around the world using only the power of its solar panel covered deck. The highly unique ship, which is built in catamaran fashion, is the worlds first vehicle to travel completely around the globe using only solar power — in this case 38,000 SunPower solar cells.
The 4 person crew extensively documented the trip, creating videos, blogging and posting photos to show that this technology is full of promise and ready for development into ever more refined vehicles. The 102 foot long boat, the largest solar powered example in the world, uses 537 square meters (5780 sq feet) of solar panel charging six banks of lithium-ion batteries. The stored energy from the days sun provides the vessel with power around the clock and in less than optimal weather conditions, like fog and rain.[see_also]
The project, which was mainly funded by Swiss watchmaker, Candino, and German energy company, Immosolar, is similar to the long running World Solar Challenge, a race by incredibly streamlined solar cars through the desolate and dry heart of Australia. Interestingly, the vehicles competing in the 3000km race between Darwin and Port Augusta, have a striking resemblance to the Turanor PlanetSolar (which means power of the sun in J.R.R Tolkien mythology).
What do these incredible examples of solar powered transportation show? Solar, even for powering vehicles, is becoming more and more feasible as an everyday source of transportation energy — if only on small and lightweight scales. Will some of us be driving lightweight grocery getters and sailing under the power of the sun soon? In the brighter areas of the world, it seems highly probable.
You’ll find more on the voyage of the Turanor PlanetSolar here.