The Best Solar Powered Catamarans


Catamarans are increadible boats, and making one solar powered really makes my little engineering brain go wild. In this article I discuss some of the coolest solar powered catamarans out there!

Here are three of the best solar catamarans:

  1. Sunreef’s 80 Sunreef Power Eco Yacht
  2. Silent Yachts’ Silent 80
  3. Soel’s Senses 48

There are soo many variables that it’s tough to say one is better than the others. No matter which you board, you’re going to have a luxury experience. The benefit of these solar cats is that the experince can be had while maintaining a sustainable lifestyle and contributing to the betterment of the environment.

The diesel engine is dead, Long live electric power. Sort of…

Solar Catamarans: Luxury Yachts

Before we look at each of these, let’s take a few paragraphs to talk about catamarans in general. First of all, when many people think of cats, they think of a relatively small craft barrelling across the water, one of its hulls in the air with a swashbuckling daredevil hanging off the side of it high above the water.

That’s not the kind of catamaran we’re talking about here. We are, instead, looking at yachts or cruising catamarans. These share one commonality with the other type of cat, and that’s the twin hulls. But that’s it. Cruising cats are slower, more stately boats. Also, on one of those little, quick ones, there’s not room for much of anything, and you won’t likely be doing any cooking or sleeping on it.

We’re also looking solely at solar-powered catamarans here, and although they have much in common with their diesel-drinking brethren, there are some key differences, which we’ll also address.

Perhaps the main difference (and one of the most significant selling points for a solar-powered catamaran) is the noise level.

Gabo

Anyone who’s been on any boat with a combustion engine (diesel or petrol) on board has had to deal with the noise and smell.

But the drone (or roar, depending on the engine’s size and location) can be far from relaxing, which is one of the main reasons to get on a boat, off the mainland, and out to sea. Even if you’re marlin fishing—not the most peaceful undertaking man has ever attempted—you’re still out on the water and hope for some peace and quiet.

Eliminating that engine noise is a pretty big deal.

How Solar Catamarans Work

The biggest key to the success of the solar-powered yacht is not the solar panels – although those are great, as they look terrific and are well integrated into the ships. But the unsung hero here is the battery system.

Solar energy companies continue to perfect their industry. By making their solar batteries denser and denser, they create batteries that can store more solar power for more extended periods in smaller spaces.

And that brings us to an aspect you probably haven’t thought of:

Solar-powered yachts have more interior room because the battery system takes up less space than a conventional engine would.

Space customarily used by an engine room gets freed up for other uses.

Since most solar catamarans are nearly infinitely customizable, it’s hard to say what you might use that extra space for, but it’s available because of the solar power system.

The yachts have solar cells in all sorts of places, most notably on the roofs of the boats, but some companies build them in over large swaths of the hull, so they look as much like a design choice as a power source.

3 Best Solar-Powered Catamarans

Let’s be honest—if you’re dropping more than a couple of million dollars on a boat, two things are likely true: you have a lot of money, and you like nice things. All of the yachts listed here are lovely things, so it’s going to be hard to go wrong. 

As a result (and since these aren’t exactly accessible for test drives), it’s difficult to say which one of these is actually the best; ergo, this list is in no particular order. They’re all glorious specimens.

Incidentally, where the price is listed, that number is an extremely general estimate. As these vessels are all entirely customizable and each choice below available in different lengths and configurations, the cost can vary wildly.

80 Sunreef Power Eco Yacht

This may be the most remarkable boat you’ll see for a long time. Sunreef has been in the yacht-building business since the turn of the millennium, winning awards along the way, and in the last few years, the company began work on its Eco line.

While there are shorter (and one longer) versions of this ship, the 80-footer (24.38 m) is pretty iconic. It offers electric motors to push it over the water and to do so with little noise, vibrations, and zero smell of fuel or exhaust.

As mentioned earlier, this is the yacht with solar cells pretty much all over it. They dot the sides of the hull and add to the overall look of the ship. With these cells and the panels on the roof, this yacht carries 200 square meters (2152 sq ft) of solar cells generating up to 40kWp (that’s 40 kilowatts peak, meaning under the best conditions, like on a bright, sunny day). Sunreef makes cats that run under sail, as well.

Pros

  • Unlimited cruising
  • No emissions
  • Silent running

Cons

  • Cost
  • Solar panels on the sides of the boat may not appeal to everyone
  • Price: $8 million USD and up (new)

Silent 80

Silent Yachts has several versions of each of its catamarans. This eighty-footer (24m) is available in a loft or a classic version, but you get large spaces and incredible luxury no matter what you choose. The bathrooms alone on these things are pretty enough to live in.

Like Sunreef, Silent Yachts offers various lengths of these yachts, but they refer to the 80 as their flagship, and with good reason. Also with good reason, this yacht has been called “the Tesla of the seas.”

Three power options exist, each allowing higher maximum speeds for longer periods on the water than the last, but all three offer cruising speeds of up to 8 knots.

Its rooftop solar panels generate 26kWp of power. While that’s a significant step down from the comparable Sunreef vessel, the company claims unlimited range. Theoretically, it makes sense—solar power is even easier to come by on the open sea than on land, and with an endless supply, you ought to be able to cruise forever (as long as the sun shines).

All that power gets stored in batteries, and when it’s time to use it, the boat does so silently through its electric motors, on which Silent Yachts gives a lifetime warranty. While that warranty wouldn’t give you much peace of mind if you were on the float hoping for rescue, once you got it back home, whatever the problem was would get fixed, and you’d be ready to go out again.

Like any electric motor propulsion system, the Silent 80’s requires almost zero maintenance. Compare that to the ongoing work you do on your big, loud, smelly diesel engine. Not having to change the oil alone seems worth the investment.

Pros 

  • Recommended maintenance schedule happens after the end of most yachts’ lifespans, meaning you may not ever have to do any maintenance at all on this one.
  • Kite available for additional propulsion (up to ten times more efficient than a sail)

Cons

  • Its five-and-a-half-foot draft is pretty deep.
  • Smaller kWp capacity than comparable makes.
  • Cost.
  • Price: $4.6 million and up (new).

Soel Senses 48

This is a smaller yacht (a little more than half the size) than the first two. However, Soel has built a beautiful boat that is entirely sustainably powered. The 12 solar panels on the roof generate 2.7 kWp of electricity stored in two batteries that can be configured to hold up to 142 kWh of stored solar power.

This, like the others, makes for a boat that glides over the water without rattles, without fumes, without noise. Unlike the others, its cruising speed tops out at 10 knots—faster due to its smaller size. Its top speed runs at 18 knots, but with significantly less kWp on board, the ship won’t run at that top speed for extended periods.

The company lists the ship’s range at between 30 and 56 nautical miles (55 – 103 km), and the fluctuation will come from various options and choices available in operational modes.

Pros 

  • The boat’s 2.3-foot (70.10 cm) draft is shallower than the larger boats here.
  • Orders of magnitude more affordable.

Cons

  • This is a smaller boat and won’t comfortably house much more than 10.
  • Limited range means this is a weekend cruiser, not a circumnavigator.
  • Price: $600,000 and up (new).

Other Choices

These next couple of catamarans are newer and smaller, but they bear mentioning for various reasons, which we’ll be sure and point out with each one. Again, at a certain point, a yacht is a yacht, and if you can fit your friends and family on it for a fun trip, everything else is just gravy.

Silent 50

Smaller than Silent Yacht’s Silent 80, this one is a product not only of Silent Yacht but one made in conjunction with Volkwagen and Cupra, a Spanish car company.

Volkswagen has become a significant player in the electric engines game, so the company brings its Modular Electric Drive (MED) to this vessel, allowing for an even more efficient electric propulsion system than the one on the Silent 80. 

Cupra’s presence in the project seems to be solely on the design side of things. The Silent 50 is a vessel built with an eye toward a world in which water travel creates zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Aquanima 40

Azura Marine, based in Singapore, recently announced a solar-powered yacht whose biggest feature may have been its six-figure cost. According to Azura Marine, the ship can cruise indefinitely with a 10 kW solar power system and a 60 kWh battery pack. That is a smaller battery pack than the others, but it’s also a smaller craft.

This cat is a terrific combination of price and features.

Choosing the Best Solar Catamaran for You

This will be a personal choice and one you’ll want to do a lot of research on (which is presumably why you landed on this page in the first place). Since solar-powered catamarans sell for sums of money with at least seven digits in them, this will not be an impulse purchase for very many people.

Any of the choices listed here will be well-built, beautiful, luxurious places to lay your head or sip your mimosas while you’re on the water. It may come down to aesthetics, range, or speed, but all of these models offer incredible specimens that everyone—landlubber or old salt—will treasure.

Conclusion

The luxury yacht world is an exclusive one, but it doesn’t have to be wasteful or ecologically irresponsible. The yachts listed here are some of the best in the world in terms of combining luxury with solar power and providing emissions-free yachting that’s quiet and relaxing.

New yachts can be purchased from the manufacturers, allowing for customization, and various online yacht brokers are willing to help you find a pre-owned craft that’s right for you.

Finding the right yacht for you will depend on your wants and needs, but we can all agree that environmentally sound, sustainable power on these vessels is valuable.

Sources

Gabo

Owner of CatamaranFreedom.com. A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

Recent Posts