Student team builds super-fast solar-powered boat

ABB contributed

Green and smart mobility is the future. This is also true at ABB, where we strive every day to tackle the energy challenges of tomorrow. Fortunately, we are not alone. A student team from the University of Twente, located in The Netherlands, took solar energy to the next level with the Solar Boat project.

Solar Boat Twente
Solar Boat Twente

No stuffy lecture halls or mountains of theory, but actual hands-on work; that would sound like music to their ears for many students. It became reality for fourteen students from the University of Twente. Twelve of them even took a year-long break from their studies to focus on the development of the Solar Boat, a boat that runs on solar energy.

The team wants the 'Blue Manta' to make people stop and think about the polluting shipping industry and the need to switch from fossil fuels to green energy. And show the many possibilities of sustainable transport.

Racing on the open sea

But there was another goal too. They wanted to reach the top 3 in the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, the largest international competition for solar boats. Unfortunately, on day four of the world championship, the team faced faltering mechanics in the wings and they missed out on a place on the podium. But ending up taking 5th place in the world championship is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially not if you also take first place for best techtalk, a prize for sharing the knowledge and innovations that you gained with the outside world.

Top speed of 50 km/hour

On paper, the team's chances also looked good. The Blue Manta was in optimal condition for the harsh conditions of racing on the open sea. One example is the specially developed electric motor that was installed underneath the water in optimized aluminum housing. This means the heart of the boat is cooled directly by the water. This allows the engine to handle much more power, so it can reach a top speed of 50 km/hour. Another example is the special silicon cells that were used for the sun deck. They absorb more sunlight than traditional cells and are more resistant to salt water.

ERG crimping tool and Spec-Kon cable lugs
ERG crimping tool and Spec-Kon cable lugs

ABB also contributed and sponsored parts like the Ty-Raps®, various variants of Shrink-Kon® shrinkable tubing, an ERG crimping tool and Spec-Kon cable lugs. Innovation is a team sport. It's not for nothing that our motto is: Let’s write the future. Together.

The cockpit of the solar boat
The cockpit of the solar boat

Solar Boat Twente also needs these smaller parts in the large, 8 meter boat. Sailing on inland waters but also at sea with waves creates a lot of vibration. The Ty-Raps ensure there are no loose lying cables around the boat while sailing. Reliability is also very important when racing. The crimping tool and the cable lugs ensure the power wires and the battery are securely fastened.

Many hours were spent in the boat pulling the cables and hiding them neatly away with the ABB gear. All the cables need to be pulled from the cockpit to the rest of the boat. Not an easy feat if you assume someone has to crawl 4 meters from the cockpit into the boat to pull the cables from the trunk to the cockpit. With a width of 60 centimeters, it took quite some time to lay the cables. But they eventually managed to neatly fasten all the cables to the walls so the energy generated by the solar panels can be led to the battery.

Solar Boat Twente - Aftermovie Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge 2019

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