IIT-Madras alumnus creates country’s first solar ferry

Chennai: When it comes to solar energy, Kerala has been grabbing the headlines in recent times. The State was also the first to launch an airport run completely by solar power. Navalt Boats based in Kochi made history when it launched Aditya – India’s first solar ferry. Navalt was started in October 2013 by IIT-Madras alumnus Sandith Thandasherry. His team works on building efficient boats and focuses on reducing fuel consumption.

Sandith told News Today, “My expertise is in naval engineering. So, we started focusing on developing a fuel-efficient boat and we felt that solar was the best way to do it.”

How did he and his team overcome obstacles they faced when building India’s first solar ferry? “We had two kinds of issues: One is technical – in terms of finding engineering solutions. It took us about three years to iterate and design our ferry,” says Sandith.

“The second issue was some people – like those who use diesel ferries and boat manufacturers – tried to stop our project,” he recalled.

Sandith reveals that right from the early stages there were sceptics who claimed that this ferry was impossible to be built. “They said we were wasting money. We even had some who filed a PIL in the High Court to stop our project. That issue was quite difficult to face,” he says.

But Sandith and his team had the last laugh when Aditya carried several passengers on board during its inaugural run. “For us, the challenge was if we could demonstrate,” he says. “We were lucky that we could get it done.”

Sandith spoke about the boat’s potential in the market. “I feel that nobody buys solar vehicles just because it is solar, but because it is economical,” he says. “People see the value in our products,” he adds.

He said some doubted if it could ever work. “But now they have seen Aditya running well. Solar boats are expensive, compared to boats that run on fuel. Nevertheless, in the long run, there you save a lot on fuel.”

Aditya was made in India by a team of dedicated engineers who showed the world that a land of billion souls is part of the race towards sustainable energy development.

Sandith spoke of Navalt Boats’ plans. “We are also working on RoRo ferries,” he says. “We are collaborating with the Kerala police and the Indian Navy to help them perform their patrol operations on solar boats. They can save a lot of fuel.”

To experience a virtual tour of Aditya, visit navaltboats.com

Mohammed Rayaan