So, you might ask, what makes me think that this crazy idea will actually work? Well, I have given the idea of a solar powered boat, quite a bit of thought. I even wrote a bit of software that I called “ESPcat Simulator”, to test my ideas.
I have tried to take everything in to consideration, the solar panel size, the battery size the electric motor size the aerodynamic drag coefficient and anything else I could think of. According to the simulation software, ESPcat should be able to travel at 7 knots even with a moderate head wind. 7 knots is faster than the average 8.5 m sailboat, particularly when you consider that a sailboat can’t always travel in the direction you actually want to go.
I figure that I will get over 4 hours of battery life so even with no sun at all, I should be able to travel 29 nautical miles. With average sunlight that distance extents to 39 nautical miles. Hopefully, the size of battery and solar panels will be sufficient that in most instances, I will never run out of power in normal cruising around the Hauraki Gulf.
A typical trip might be to Oneroa on Waiheke Island.
The round trip would be 22 nautical miles; well within range. If we decided to stay overnight, we would be fully charged for the next day’s cruising (all according to the simulator).
Let’s be honest. All of this “simulation” business is purely theoretical. It’s a bit like global warming. We won’t know for sure until we try it.