Indian solar ferry flies flag for cleaner, cheaper water transport

VIAKOM, India: Over the past three years, P. Ravindran’s commute from his southern Indian village has been about more than getting to work – the SIM card seller sees his daily trip on India’s first solar-powered ferry as doing his bit for the green revolution.

“I am proud to be a frequent traveller on the Aditya… I am being part of cleaning the Earth,” said Ravindran, who uses the boat most days to travel to the town of Vaikom on Lake Vembanad.

The Aditya’s green credentials have attracted international attention and earned it a win last month in awards sponsored by international electric boat journal Plugboats.

An internal impact study produced in January by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) showed the ferry generates close to zero polluting emissions and is at least 30 times cheaper to run than its diesel counterparts.

The state government now plans to put two more solar ferries and a solar-powered cruise ship into service on Kerala’s backwaters by the end of the year.

Recently, the transport department decided to switch all Kerala’s 48 diesel ferries to solar within the next five years.

Each day, the Aditya carries about 1,700 passengers on a 3-km (1.9-mile) route across the lake, between Thavanakadavu village and the town of Vaikom, according to the KSWTD study.

It runs on 70 kilowatts of electricity, of which 65 is supplied by the boat’s solar panels and the rest from the grid.

As a result, the Aditya costs about 5,900 rupees ($79) per month to run, compared to the 214,500 rupees the state spends on each of the three diesel ferries operating the same route. They will be replaced by solar-powered boats by the end of 2020.

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