Proving that solar propulsion is not only environmentally and budget-friendly, but feasible, a 39' vessel, Solar Sal, recently completed the final leg of its maiden cargo run, carrying recycled cardboard along the Erie Canal without using a single drop of fossil fuel. Whether plug-in, hybrid or solar charged, more and more workboats are choosing Torqeedo electric propulsion due to its power, efficiency at moving heavy loads and cost savings.

Solar Sal traversed 72 locks and traveled a total of 650 miles across the state of New York, delivering four tons of cargo from Lockport to a paper mill in Mechanicville on its history-making journey. The vessel runs 8.3 mph on twin Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 electric motors. Providing the equivalent thrust of two 9.9 horsepower combustion engines, these powerful, emission-free electric motors run on sunlight.

When Solar Sal's builder, David Borton, decided to build a useful and practical solar electric boat, he relied on his background as an adjunct associate professor of mechanical engineering to design a 40' wooden, strip-built hull with maximum surface area for solar collection. It can be fitted as a 12-ton cargo ship, dayliner tourist vessel or cabin cruiser, all using nothing but free, clean solar fuel.

"The best part of these motors is their efficiency. That includes the electronic control, good motor, planetary gear reduction and efficient, slow, large propeller," said Borton. Solar Sal can motor all day in daylight and up to 50 miles after sunset on stored battery power. It's fitted with 5 kW of solar panels, serving two battery banks. One powers a bank of Torqeedo's Power 26-104 lithium batteries, the other powers conventional lead-acid batteries. Borton hopes the side-by-side comparisons of the storage technologies will provide some interesting data in the future.

Christened Solar Sal, this craft is named for the famous song, Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal. The song memorializes Sal, one of the mules that towed the barges that brought economic prosperity to New York in the mid- to late-1800s. The vessel will be visiting local festivals and alternative energy conferences all through the year. Borton also has a personal target of building 10 solar electric boats a year.

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