Solar Panels – Wings of the 'Tonbo' (Dragonfly) Boat

By George Backwell at April 23, 2011 22:13
Filed Under: Company News, Research & Development

"We are confident we can build everything up to ocean liners and in fifty years time people will look back at boats of the 20th Century and they'll say – where are the wings?" says Dr Robert Dane, CEO of Australia-based Solar Sailor Holdings, which is collaborating with Japanese company Eco Marine Power and others in the development of concept Hybrid Marine Power (HMP) solar ferry or solar tourist boat Tonbo.

Unique Design

Tonbo in Japanese means ‘dragonfly’ and a glance at the sketches of its folding solar-panel modular ‘wings’ and ‘dragonfly-eye’ forward control station structure will convince how very apt was this choice of name. The solar panel ‘wings’ can be raised or lowered by Eco Marine’s control system: raised to optimise absorption of prevailing sunlight or to increase the field of view from the passenger cabin; lowered flat in bad weather or for transit under low bridges.

Eco Marine’s design philosophy was founded on the notion that solar-electric technology, as it is today, would be ideal for boats operating inshore, in ecologically sensitive bays, lakes and rivers. A detailed design emerged in January 2011 that specified:

  • LOA: 10 m
  • Beam: 8 m
  • Height: 4 m
  • Draft: 2 m
  • Build: marine-grade aluminium
  • Passenger capacity: 150  to 200 depending on interior layout


Tonbo will run on a computer-optimised HMP system (developed by Solar Sailor) which uses electric motors powered by Lithium batteries that are charged by the solar panels in conjunction with a bio-fueled generator-set to give a maximum cruising speed of 10 kts; for speeds of less than 8 kts Tonbo may run silently on battery power alone. Back at home base  the batteries would be recharged by means of shore electrical power.

Related Breaking News

Dr. Paul Braun, project research-group leader at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has announced the successful development of a prototype Lithium-ion battery that can recharge 100 times faster than is presently possible. In the long-term, Tonbo as well as many other related initiatives, including the hybrid electric powered automobile, will surely benefit from this breakthrough.


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