The city of Rouen in Normandy began testing a solar electric river shuttle July 15 that will operate continuously during weekday rush hours and at half hour intervals during other day parts. François Guizant, one of the owners of the boat, bragged that ”We have more than 9 hours of autonomy!”
The test period is scheduled to last until November at which time the merit of the solar electric boat will be weighed against a bridge as another option for getting people from one side of the Seine to the other.
The boat, ‘Felix de Azara’, is a 17 metre catamaran Aquabus 360 built by Grove Boats for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza Spain, which had the theme of “Water and Sustainable Development”. It seems to be a bit of a trend for solar boats, as the solar electric cruise boat in Canada’s Prince Edward Island province had previously been a vaporetta at that country’s Expo 67.
Since her time at the Expo the Felix has been put into various services as a shuttle in Paris and sightseeing boat in Lille, near Lyon (photo above). The boat has twin 8 kW motors powered by 50 sq m / 540 sq ft of solar panels on its roof and the design is based on the same hulls as the Sun21, the first solar boat to have crossed the Atlantic entirely by solar energy in 2008.
Decision: solar electric boat…or bridge?
Rouen has six bridges that connect the two banks of the river, but growing traffic and population is requiring what the city is referring to as ‘The 7th Crossing’. The Rouen Normandy Metropolis which oversees all transportation in the are is working with the Rouennaise Port Union to look at options, all of which have to comply with the region’s COP21 carbon emission reduction strategy.
The Felix de Azara can hold 60 people and each crossing takes 6 to 7 minutes. Transdev mobility, which manages 90 ferries, river shuttles and other marine transit options in 5 countries, is coordinating the operation and scheduling of the service while international energy company Engie – which is also a key sponsor of the zero emission Energy Observer hydrogen ship – is responsible for the solar electric energy management aspects.