Solar power ferry

SINTEF leads a collaborative project on sustainable electric maritime transport in North Africa. The project is an effort to help reach targets for UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7): “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Lac de Tunis is a natural lagoon located between the capital city of Tunis and the Mediterranean Sea. Waters are shallow and sheltered, and the catamaran configuration lends itself well. To solve public transport, we proposed the Icon, a solar fueled ferry, and the Photon, a smaller taxi boat.


Client: SINTEF

Research Director: Nina Dahl

Year: 2023

Site: Lac de Tunis, Tunisia


Passengers: 30

LOA: 12 meters

Beam: 5 meters

Propulsion: Battery electric, photovoltaic


Passengers: 8

LOA: 6 meters

Beam: 2.7 meters

Propulsion: Battery electric, photovoltaic

The Icon and Photon should truly be objects of public appeal. But also demonstrate the technology converting sun rays into propulsion. Covering your everyday needs for transport, without fumes and noise. The Icon is based on a General Arrangement drawing and project brief provided by SINTEF. Creating an “iconic” public transport service is an unusual task. Only measurable by the test of time and degree of social impact.

The Photon came in response to an expressed need for individual transport and last mile deliveries. These taxi boats are more agile crafts, complementing the ferries. This vessel may dock at a variety of locations and situations, less dependent on infrastructure. Passengers can enter and exit using the deployable platform at the stern. This also allows for safe access for seniors and handicapped passengers. For quick entry and exit, steps on both hull sides can be used when the boat is docked longside.

Route plan and natural circumstances led to several functional design choices. Docking the boat at the bow is easier and quicker than longside. At the terminal, it can use its main propulsion system to keep the boat docked safely. With short distances and many stops, time spent docking is critical. Less maneuvering equates to longer time quick-charging from the terminal photovoltaic roof. The solar surface on the ferry is supported by larger solar arrays on every terminal building along the route. Feeding excess power into the city grid, and keeping the ferry service operative on cloudy days or after sunset.