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Synchronous motors propel the world’s largest solar boat

22 April, 2011

The world’s largest solar-powered boat, the 95-tonne Tûranor PlanetSolar, is making a voyage around the world propelled by four water-cooled permanent magnet synchronous motors. The 31m-long catamaran, built in Germany at a cost of €12.5m and sailing under a Swiss flag, is powered by 38,000 solar cells covering almost all of its deck – a total area of 537m2. The energy gathered is stored in 648 lithium-ion cells, with a combined weight of around 11 tonnes and a storage capacity of 2,910Ah.

The Swiss engineering services provider Drivetek, which designed the vessel’s electrical power and propulsion system, chose the synchronous motors because of their high efficiency (92%) and power density. For normal cruising, the nominal power rating is 10kW at 1,000 rpm, with one motor operating in each of the catamaran`s hulls, but when a peak output is needed, two motors operating at 1,600 rpm can deliver 60kW to the 2m-diameter contra-rotating propellers in each hull. The five-bladed carbon fibre propellers spin at speeds from 100–160 rpm.

The rugged motors were supplied by the German manufacturer Baumüller. The only modification needed to its standard DSF motors was additional corrosion protection.

The Tûranor PlanetSolar set off on its round-the-world trip last September and was originally expected to complete the journey in eight months. Problems with the propeller-based steering system have delayed the voyage.

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