Kochi: Soon, solar houseboats will host tourists in the backwaters of the state.
Kochi-based ‘NavAlt solar and Electric Boats’, the manufacturer of the country’s first solar ferry, Aditya, is diversifying its product range into houseboats, another pilot initiative that will go a long way in addressing water pollution.
“We're in talks with a couple of groups including CGH Earth. The authorities are not allowing deployment of ordinary fuel houseboats in places like Alappuzha due to environmental concerns. This makes the prospect of solar-powered ones bright,” said Sandith Thandasherry, NavAlt CEO.
“It costs Rs 2 crore to roll out a fully air-conditioned solar houseboat while the normal one will cost only half of that. They normally have a life of 20 years, and one can achieve break-even in three years just by calculating the saving of fuel and maintenance expenses.”
The hospitality industry is also upbeat about drawing more tourists concerned about the global carbon footprint.
“It looks interesting. The houseboats should have a traditional look, though they work on the best of technology,” said CGH Earth CEO Jose Dominic.
However, the prospect of converting existing houseboats to solar-powered ones is not good, according to Mr Thandasherry.
“Ideally weight should be kept minimum for solar-powered boats. While old boats weigh over 30 tonnes, they should confine to 17 tonnes. Another factor is their drag power and stability. This can be achieved only if old boats are converted into catamaran-type ones. All these will add to the manufacturing cost,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Kochi-based start-up is also exploring the possibility of solar fishing boats.
“We spent six months in Gujarat to study requirement of small fishermen and converted a few small boats to solar-powered ones. There were many challenges including the period of operation and reducing manufacturing cost,” Mr Thandasherry said.
The design of the solar fishing boat is over, and the company aims to roll out the first one in four months.
“The catamaran-hull form boat is being made at our own expense, and the boat will be provided to the fishing community in Vypeen for a first-hand experience. We target the rolling out of boats costing around `2 lakh,” he said.