Aquanima 40 solar yacht sea trial: ‘Exhilarating’ 24/7 autonomy

When Azura Marine’s Aquanima 40 catamaran was taken out for its solar yacht sea trial a few weeks ago it exceeded even its builders expectations.

Azura Marine CEO Julien Mélot said afterward  “Even I was surprised that we were able to immediately achieve cruise speed with such minimal power consumption. It gives us the clear confirmation that this is a true go-anywhere boat relying purely on the energy of the sun. It was exhilarating!”

Solar yacht sea trial took place off coast of Bali

The 4 hour trial took place in the Indian Ocean with around 10 knots of easterly breeze, all under the watchful eyes of Mount Agung, Bali’s live volcano

The boat, named ‘Solar Eclipse’, achieved a maximum speed over 8.5 knots (16 kmh/9.8 mph) and was able to cruise continuously at a speed above 4.5 knots (8.3 km/5.2 mph).

solar yacht sea trial autonomy made possible by this roof made entirely of solar panels

Most importantly, the cruising speed required less than 2 kilowatts (kW) of energy per hour while the boat’s solar roof was simultaneously producing 8 kilowatts through the 56 square metres / 600 sq.ft of solar panels on her roof,  which have a generating capacity of 10kW (peak). For energy storage the Aquanima 40 has a 60 kWh battery bank (LiFePO4 or Lead-Acid).

After 4 hours on the water she returned to her mooring with 100% battery charge and energy to spare.

The solar yacht sea trial tested the full spec version of the catamaran. All of the navigational and electronics systems were in operation and she carried 550 litres (550kg / 1,200 lbs) of fresh water and dive gear with 6 tanks and compressor. There was also a 6 person Zodiac Cadet 310 Alu tender aboard.

Years of research and development

This remarkable achievement in autonomy  is the result of years of research and trial and a smart marriage of traditional boat forms and the latest super-computer analytics and design technologies.

The proof of concept solar boat - panels on a traditional Balinese catamaran

The original proof of concept for the company’s line of solar powered yachts and workboats was a modification of a ‘jukung‘, a traditional Indonesian outrigger fishing canoe. In 2016 Azura placed solar panels as a roof over one of the outriggers and a crew of 6 took the boat, ‘Surya Namskar’, on a 2,000km voyage across the Indonesian archipelago without any technical issue and without burning a single drop of fuel.

Watch this 18 minute documentary about the voyage of the Surya Namaskar

One of the co-founders of Azura is Xueqian Zhou, who leads research at Harbin Engineering University in Northern China. He took some of the learning from the Surya Namaskar and ran it through simulations on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to create the optimum design for the hulls of the Aquanima catamaran.

Efficiency and enjoyment for today’s market

For a yacht to be powered by only the sun, it has to maximize energy efficiency by having  minimal drag and resistance through the water. As it happens, Zhou’s hydrodynamic pontoons crafted to meet those requirements also fit nicely with the marketplace. He said “We see that the new trend for modern catamarans is to move away from inefficient boxy floating apartments towards performance yachts that are more enjoyable to use.”

Julien Melot agrees. “There is a new generation that wants to enjoy the experience up on deck more than the time spent in their cabins. Our CFD designed hull shapes are perfectly in line with this trend”.

solar yacht sea trial tested a completely outfitted yacht, this photo shows the electronic in the bridge

Azura Commercial Director Simon Turner added, “Our customers are wanting something to ditch fossil fuels completely.  These people are not interested in thrashing around at 30 knots but more in having a joyous, silent, cruising experience safe in the knowledge that they are not harming our oceans and marine life. And they are not incurring a single cent of fuel cost.”

Range of solar boats and a new electric outboard

From its beginnings 15 years ago the vision of Azura Marine has been to “end the reliance of ocean going vessels on fossil fuels through the utilization of modern technology and advanced hydrodynamics.”

The Aquanima line of solar yachts (there is the 40 and also a 45 version) are only one example of their success in that regard. The company also offers solar water taxis/ferries, solar tourist boats, solar dive boats and a solar plastic collector, Plakman.  Plakman was awarded “Efficient Solution” status by Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse Foundation that promtoes the adoption of profitable solutions that protect the environment.

In their quest to provide compete solutions for a greener future, Azura also has their line of Manta electric outboards. The Manta 1.0 has  a shaft of about 2 metres/ 7 feet and brings electrification to a kind of outboard/sideboard motor that is very popular for small boats in South East Asia and South America.

solar sea yacht trial also had this electric outboard and RIB tender

The Manta 2.0 is a more familiar looking 5kW stern mounted outboard that was included in the solar yacht sea trial as the propulsion for the Zodiak tender. It has a waterproof Li-Ion battery pack and a system that enables fast charging from a mothership or from shore. The motor can be ordered from the Azura website and there is also a 10 kW version available, the Manta 3.0.

Aquanima 40 and 45: the details

The Aquanima 40 comes with 4 cabins and a convertible saloon double berth providing accommodation for up to 8 guests overnight or 12 guests during the day.  The yachts can be fully customised to owner requirements and include air conditioning, audio-visual systems, CCTV and high-quality domestic appliances. Standard navigation / communication equipment including chart plotter, solid state radar, VHF, AIS and autopilot are from Raymarine but other international leading brands and can be specified by the customer.

Aquanima catamarans are built in aluminium and certified CE cat. A. Hull scantlings follow Bureau Veritas rules.  The base boat sail away Aquanima 40 costs €495,000 and the Aquanima 45 costs €607,000 ex-shipyard.

One of the innovative purchasing options is the Evolution Package, which provides constant upgrades to software and hardware as solar, battery & hydro technologies keep improving in the months and years ahead.

Aquanima 40 Specifications

LWL 11.5 m / 40 ft
LOA 13.3 m / 43 ft
Beam 6 m / 12 ft
Draft 80 cm / 31 inches
Propulsion Power 2 x 10 kW (2 x 20 kW optional)
Solar Power 10kW
Displacement 10 tonnes
Main Battery Bank Capacity 60 kWh (up to 100 kWh optional)
Water Capacity 550 l. fresh and drinking water / 215 l. holding tank

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