Kochi businessman caters to green-fuel boat demands

KOCHI: Come June, an innovative solar-electric boat manufactured fully in Kochi will enhance the experience of tourists and pilgrims visiting Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. It is the eighth green-fuel vessel being built by NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats, owned by Kochi resident Sandith Thandassery, to be delivered outside the state.

“Our latest beauty ‘Limo’ is getting ready to hit the waters. The fully air-conditioned boat, with a capacity for 30 passengers, will be transported to Ayodhya by the first week of June after trials. This is the first solar boat in the country with air-conditioning too run on solar energy. The boat will be owned by UPNEDA (Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy Development Agency) and deployed in the Sarayu river for tourist services,” Sandith, who graduated from IIT Madras with a B Tech degree in Naval Architecture, told TNIE.

The construction of a 16-seat solar-electric boat and a 25-seat semi luxury solar-electric boat is in the final stages, with the boats set to be delivered to clients in West Bengal and Punjab respectively. Besides, 20 solar-electric boats are being manufactured for use in the state.

NavAlt had built the country’s first solar ferry Aditya launched in the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu section on January 12, 2017. Soon after its launch, Aditya was named one of the top 1,000 solutions to protect the environment, by the Solar Impulse Foundation. Following its successful operation, the Kerala government too embarked on a green initiative, rolling out a number of solar ferries and cruise vessels, replacing the aged fleet of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD). The country’s largest solar-electric boat Indra, launched as a tourist cruise vessel in the Kochi backwaters early in April, was the latest one manufactured by NavALT for the department.

Outlining the technical specialities of Limo, Sandith said the boat is equipped with four battery packs — two for propulsion (twin 15kW motors) and two for air-conditioning and auxiliary loads (60kWh). Apart from 3kW solar panels, the boat has shore charging as well as an emergency generator for extended range and emergencies. “This is the third boat in the Marsel series and is built to strict specifications. The boat can attain a speed of 8 to 12 knots and can cover 60-120 km per day. The boat has a toilet and pantry facility as well,” he sai d.

Some of the noted projects associated with NavAlt—which has its yard at Aroor ­— include Avalon (semi-luxury solar-electric boat for tourism service); SunCruz Leisure boats for KAAV Resort in Kabini, Karnataka; and Barracuda, India’s fastest solar-electric boat.

Sandith has been honoured with numerous awards, including TieCon ‘Innovator of the Year’ award (2023) and Young Inventor Award (Solar Energy Society of India, 2021). And NavAlt has bagged over 20 accolades, including World’s Best Startup under the Mobility and Transportation (Issued by Startup Energy Transition Awards 2023) among others.

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