I awoke this morning to more snow and to the news that two out of three groundhogs predicted six more weeks of winter. Yeah, well, I could have told you that. But whether you slavishly worship at the altar of Wiarton Willie or Punxsutawney Phil or some other lesser known rodent, the whole day has put me in mind of sunnier things. Among them, the solar powered boat ride I took in London, England about ten years ago.
The Serpentine SolarShuttle was the United Kingdom’s first solar-powered passenger ferry. It can carry up to 40 passengers across the Serpentine, the recreational lake built in Hyde Park in 1730.
Its rooftop comprises 27 glass panels that store energy in a specially-designed battery system. The energy is then used to power two small electric motors. The solar cells are fuelled by any natural light, so even on cloudy days—and London has its fair share of those—the panels still generate more than enough power to drive the boat. If all else fails, the onboard batteries can drive the ferry up to 20 miles without any light at all.
The shuttle was designed and funded by Christoph Behling and SolarLab; SolarLab is now developing solar boats that could operate on the Thames River and hold up to 250 passengers.