Story of ADITYA, India’s First Solar Ferry

The story of ADITYA, India's first solar ferry, in a thread. From the project's inception, to the challenges faces, to design, construction, testing and finally three years of operation.

1/n Aditya, #IndiasFirstSolarFerry & wins 2020 Gustave Trouvé Awards for the World’s best passenger electric ferry. Gussie’s award is the world’s only international awards exclusively for electric boats.

2/n In the finals, Aditya beat European boats from Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Netherlands. There were 50 electric boats from 19 countries nominated, a great demonstration of the huge variety of electric boats now available.

3/n Three reasons why Aditya won: 

  1. CAPEX less than half of the ferries in Europe
  2. CAPEX half of similar electric ferries in Europe
  3. High Impact – 1 million pax, 100K lit of diesel saved, 70K km travelled with 0 fuel in 3 yrs

4/n Some other awards ADITYA and won in recent times: @solarimpulse awarded our solar ferry as #1000efficientsolutions that meet #SDGs 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.

5/n Every year, Royal Institute of Naval Architects (UK) comes up with a list of significant small ships in the world. In 2017 Aditya made it to this list.

6/n Other awards from FICCI, GCIP, IVLP, TISSOT, ActionForIndiaVillgroTieKeralaDestination Kerala, NITIAayogMEAIndia can be seen at


7/n One of the favorites among them is from our PM, Sri. Narendra Modi, when we won the Social Entrepreneur Award during Pravasi Bharati 2017 at Bangalore. This was just before ADITYA was inaugurated.

8/n ADITYA was inaugurated by the then Union Power Minister, Sri. Piyush Goyal and Kerala CM, Sri. Pinarayi Vijayan on 12th Jan 2017 at Vaikom boat jetty. Sri. C.K. Saseendran, Sri. Jose K Mani, Smt. C.K. Asha were other dignitaries. BW Disrupt arcticle.

9/n Let us recollect some steps along the way before reaching this inaugural day. Four years before that, in 2013, Kerala State Water Transport was facing a big challenge. Although air and water pollution of diesel boats were issues, it was not the biggest one.

10/n Diesel ferries also cause noise pollution; the vibration of engines is tiring for passengers, and finally, the smell of fuel is uncomfortable.

11/n The single-hulled boats are more prone to capsizing due to overloading and overcrowding. Many accidents happened. Although these are all important, it was not the main one. 

12/n The biggest issue State Water Transport Department (SWTD) faced was that the cost of fuel was higher than revenue from the ticket sales. Water transport is subsidised since poorer sections of society depend on this model. 

13/n Use of solar energy and electric propulsion was identified as a solution to make the transport system sustainable. However, the existing boats could not be converted since they were wooden/steel with high energy requirements. The gap in energy was very high. 

14/n At the time some “experts” pointed out how running a 75 passenger ferry with solar energy was impossible. These were mostly propped by the lobby of steel boat builders, diesel engine suppliers, fuel suppliers, etc. who were going to face disruption. 

15/n The challenge to make 75 pax solar ferry was thrown open as tender. We grabbed it. We had to get 3 things right – (1) reduce the weight by half using GRP and aluminum, (2) reduce drag to one-third by optimising the underwater shape, and (3) efficient, and rugged power train.

16/n To making the boat better than current boats four more things are done: (1) Catamaran hull for enhanced stability (2) Independent power train so that there is safety & redundancy, (3) use of LFP or LTO battery chemistry, and (4) complete information in the dashboard with remote monitoring.

17/n Once the design was approved by IR Class, the boat construction commenced with the making of pattern. The end of this step is mirror finished surface.

18/n From the pattern, mould is generated. The two hulls are made using this mirror finished mould. This is also the time when I spend time visiting Alapuzha and Thiruvananthapuram vigilance offices explaining how the boat will actually run unlike the compliant raised by our detractors.

19/n A few months down the line the boat was ready to launch. On the day before the launch, our detractors filed a PIL in High Court claiming that the project is a waste of public money and that the boat would not run.

20/n A couple of weeks later the sea trials at full load was conducted in the presence of technical committee and IR Class. ADITYA demonstrated that the boat can run at 7.5 knots carrying 75 passengers.

21/n The key success of ADITYA is its extremely low OPEX. The daily energy cost is under 200 Rs. Compared to 7,500 Rs. for a diesel ferry. This gives a saving of 25 lakh Rs. per year. 

22/n The environmental impact of ADITYA is summarised in three groups. SDG 13, Climate action – Yearly 35K litres of diesel is saved and that leads to the prevention of 94T CO2 emission and 8T SOx, NOx, etc. SDG 6 and 14 – No dirty bilges or unburnt fuel pumped in water bodies.

23/n ADITYA is the 1st segment that we have addressed – public transportation. In other applications, as the speed increases or the weight of cargo increases or the distance traveled in a day increases the complexity increases. Some of these will start sailing in 2020.

24/n We could not have made ADITYA if the terms of the contract were skewed like CSL, Indian Navy, or Central Govt. PSUs with 100% payment after delivery. This and many discriminatory policies prevent the growth of MSME. ADITYA must make decision-makers in many PSUs like CSL shed their hangover of foreign technology and look at Indian technologies with an open mind. Many times a level playing field is what MSME seeks. Discriminatory policies prevent the growth of MSME.

25/n ADITYA has proven the economic & environmental benefits of solar ferries. There is no reason why any more inland diesel ferry boats must be built. This also leads to our purpose – “We want to transform transportation on the water the way Tesla has done on roads”. 

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