101: The High(ly) Charged Seas – Solar Powered Boats

Matt and Sean talk about solar powered boats, and Sean gives away a million dollar idea.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “This Solar Powered Boat Could be the Future of Transportation”: https://youtu.be/FnYL3C9pWO4

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Hey, everybody welcome to the still to be determined podcast. This is the podcast that follows up on topics from the Youtube channel undecided with Matt Ferrell all of Matt’s fans will of course recognize my voice I am Matt Ferrell no I’m not Matt Ferrell I’m Sean Ferrell I’m his brother. Um, a writer I’ll be asking him the questions Matt is of course here because I wouldn’t do this without him say hi Matt it’s a good thing that we restarted. We had a couple of flubs before and when I said say hi Matt he didn’t take it literally and so on the second take of course he’s able to do that.
Hi Matt.
That’s why he is chortling excitedly before we get into today’s episode just a reminder There are ways to directly support the podcast. There’s still tbd dot fm and there’s a link there where you can throw coins at our head or you can just if you’re on Youtube. Click the join button and become a member right here on youtube either way is a great way to support us. But if you’re not able to do that. We appreciate. You’re just listening subscribing and sharing with your friends. All of that really does help. Today we’re gonna be talking about Matt’s most recent episode this episode aired late last year by which I mean I guess it was Tuesday this is from December Twenty Eighth twenty twenty one and it’s about solar powered boats.
Ah, yeah.
Solar powered boats could be the future of transportation and right out of the gate part of me responded to this with a well yeah, it’s starting to feel a little more commonplace.
This is.
A little bit like watching Star Trek and not being surprised when they pull a communicator out of their pocket and communicate with a ship in space like yeah I’ve got a cell phone Next yeah like what’s the next big thing So when you say like.
Yeah, yeah.
Here are the arrays on tops of the houses and here is the arrays on the field and all the solar power being generated seeing boats with solar powers solar powered panels across the top and the designs I think were cataran-like very interesting sort of a modernization of.
Ah, standard design that we’re used to seeing on the water so putting panels on those things makes complete sense is there a little bit of the commonplace leaking into the work that you’re doing on your channel. Are you starting to see a little bit more of like Ho Hum to some of this.
Yes. You know in some ways. Yeah I mean when I started looking into this. This is actually been on my backlog of topic ideas for probably about six months it was it was one of those I have a friend that’s actually looking at buying a silent. Ah 1 of the silent yachts for themselves and so it’s like. They’re planning on retiring and basically going sailing for the next you know, however, many years and it’s like when they told me about that. That’s when I started looking into it I was like oh wow this is really cool but it didn’t surprise me, it’s kind of like I drive an electric vehicle I’m seeing electric vehicles all over the place. It’s becoming kind of commonplace of if you can power a car then of course why couldn’t you power a boat so there is a little bit of a. I don’t know if I would say ho hum but it is becoming more routine and more um, accessible that it feels normal that it could be on a boat. So it’s it’s not too surprising anymore. But it’s still I know there’s a lot of people out there that aren’t as steeped in this as.
Um, yeah.
We are or used to it as we are and they may live in parts of the world where they don’t see a lot of this so it’s it’s still kind of gonna be surprising to some people which is why I thought it was still a interesting topic to dive into.
I also began to wonder if it’s a little bit like the last comment you just made about people in parts of the world where it might not be expected I actually do wonder if it might be a little bit like sell technology in the fact that I work for a company. Deals with supporting projects around the world and a number of years ago I believe I’ve talked about this before on the channel. Ah there was this big push in Africa around cell technology and governments of every level local. Ah, County national governments in Africa were finding reluctance from governments in Europe and in the United States to support cell development in Africa because from the. European and american perspective the order of things was first you lay down cables and once you’ve got telephone cables in all the houses then you go about building cell technology and the response from the african nations was in Nigeria was. Particularly keen on this. Why would we waste our time and money putting cables down if we can just put cell towers up and instead of putting phones in every home people just go out and get cell phones and cell phone adoption is huge in Africa and.
Is the primary means by which people get onto the internet or consume media. There were projects around putting in something in cabs to allow digital screens and cabs to be showing programming including advertisements and local news and weather in the back of cabs. They were doing that in Kenya before they were doing it here in New York city and as I was reading these project proposals around this idea of advertising in cabs in Nairobi I was just like wait what that’s not possible that can’t be done and.
Of course cut to the chase. It can be done and now it’s very readily evident here in in the United States and in New York City in particular you get into a cab you have to hit the mute button. Otherwise you’re going to be blasted out of the backseat by advertisements about Rihanna’s next big hit.
It’s everywhere.
So I I wonder if there are parts of the world where this adoption of this and you and I’ve found the part about the Indian Ferry system to be extremely compelling because I wonder if there are going to be those nations.
Which are going to just gobble this up because of a nation like India which is behind the eight ball as far as pollution is concerned and its impact directly on the lives of its people in a way that is only on the rise.
So while here in the us we are looking for ways to you know curb our own environmental impact in India they’re still scrambling to provide enough energy to their people. So their their impact on the environment could increase even if they’re able to make improvements so something like this seems like.
Yes, yes.
Ah, no brainer and I just wonder if your suggestion of there may be people in parts of the world where this isn’t going to be as expected I Wonder if the inverse might actually be true if there will be parts of the world where this will be the norm faster than here.
Yes, yes, no, that’s kind of why I made that when I’m saying there’s people that are not as versed to this I was actually meaning here in the us because India is doing incredible things with solar power over there ramping it up and there’s a lot of innovation happening in India. And this is going to becoming is becoming more and more commonplace over there. Um, these electric ferries I didn’t talk about it in the video but Sweden has a few of these in operation already. So it’s like there’s different countries in Europe that are already putting these kind of things into place. We’re really not seeing them here yet and here we have ferries that go from. Cape Cod to Martha’s vineyard and stuff like that those are still not solar powered and that’d be a perfect implementation for it and I was actually just looking at this during when we print the video together the most that we’re doing there is for the The Steamship Authority Authority that runs that is actually getting electric buses to get people.
Like from parking and to the ferry and back stuff like that. But the ferries are still electric. It’s like come on. It’s like this would be the perfect implementation for it. So it’s like it’s interesting to see. Yeah, it’s interesting to see other countries getting there first before you would expect it in ah a richer country or a country that’s supposed to be.
Um, right? Yeah I Wonder how much of that. Yeah I wonder.
On the cutting edge when we’re actually not on the cutting edge. We’re actually lacking behind.
Yeah I Wonder how much of that is because of baked-in infrastructure and concerns. Especially from the public sector I Imagine there is a lot of hesitance to say like oh if we switch over these.
Staten Island Ferry if we can change all of these ferries over to solar. We won’t need the level of maintenance. Well if we don’t need the level of maintenance. We’ve got a hundred people who jobs are maintenance workers on the diesel powered ferries. We’d have to cut those jobs. So I wonder how much of this is a reluctance to you know not to try to go too hard at this pun avoidance of rocking the boat is potentially a part of it as well as the fact that the companies and the.
There’s There’s a yeah that.
The public transportation system is so built around diesel and hardwired electric and other forms of power development that this transition would be seen as well. We literally just put $5000000000 into the New York city subway system what do you mean? we’re going to change it tomorrow.
There’s there’s an inertia. There’s a ah if it ain’t broke. Don’t fix it kind of mentality but I always bring up costs whenever I can about like how this comparisones costs to something else because when that gap gets wider and wider. It’s going to bust through politics.
It’s going to bust through that inertia because it’s like when a company that’s running like the Mta is running the subways or the buses and they can see oh my gosh we could cut our month our yearly expenses by like 15 to 20% by going over to electric politics be damned. It would be it would be damning if they didn’t. Because it would save so much money for the city and so much for the operation. So we’re getting to that point now where it’s like we’re seeing the gap in costs getting wide enough that it’s getting harder to ignore. So I think that’s what’s holding the us back.
For the most part is that if it ain’t broke. Don’t fix it. It’s not going to save us that much money. There’s a lot of doubt of like can it actually work over the course of 10 years or not um so there’s a lot of resistance. But I think we’re getting to that point where it’s a tipping point where we’re starting to see that flip.
Yeah I appreciated the numbers you had in this video showing historically how ten years ago coal providing at a relatively flat rate. Not much change but solar just suddenly dropping.
Off a cliff. Yeah.
Yeah, dropping and the cost per watt was dumbfounding that it’s down to I mean what was the number ¢38 ah and the providing of.
Numbers around the indian ferry system and there was a comment from Medu Jose who wrote and I believe he says this as a result of being in India he doesn’t say where he lives but madun’s right’s proud to see that you featured the Aitya boat from Kerala india carla is also home to the world’s first fully solar powered airport coaching international airport and the numbers around the ferry system. We’re very interesting as you take into consideration. Yes, the boat is more expensive out of the gate but over a 10 year period less maintenance costs. No fuel costs the potential for a boat to run 10 years without needing maintenance other than potentially needing its battery replaced that of course is assuming the boat never accidentally hits a dock never has a you.
Never has a you know a fender bener with another boat like there’s obviously that kind of maintenance that might be unexpected, but that’s true of any boat. So when you’re crunching these numbers you you can’t include every conceivable Contingency you’re talking about out of the gate.
Yes, yes.
If everything ran perfectly smoothly every day These are the numbers you could expect.
Correct. Yes, it’s it’s I saw a thread in the comments of people kind of challenging that notion of there’s no maintenance. It’s like no no, no, it’s like it’s a boat. It’s going to have the same maintenance as any other boat. It’s going to have barnacles growing on it. It’s going to need to be maintained and cleaned. But like when you’re talking about the operation of the engine the motor that’s where you have to focus for the difference and that’s where the huge savings comes in.
Yeah, that was in line with this comment from Payal who wrote being a yacht captain and an electrical engineer I find it fascinating for lack of a better word on how this unlimited ranges are Advertised. He’s referring of course to the to your discussion of how. At certain speeds. These boats could run for unlimited amounts of time because they would be using less or the same amount of energy that’s being produced during the during the day so he’s taking issue with that. You write.
Click correct.
Yes, you can go 2 to four knots with very little power. But if you face any kind of headwind you might be going much slower or even backwards at the original power level same goes for current or waves also peak solar output does does not last for more than 2 hours a day if and. Big if there are no clouds you will get peak solar for maybe 1 to 2 hours around noon depending on where you are. You might get another 2 hours on each side of 50 to 70% peak power and the rest will be below 50% peak. So unlimited is probably true only for 4 to 6 hours a day and it goes on from there I don’t take issue with. Him raising this as it’s not even really a counter argument. It’s a little bit more like paywell is raising the nuance of what lived experience would be like as opposed to the inner bottle numbers. This is no different than somebody saying look you buy this car. you’re going to be able to get fifty miles a gallon you’re going to be able to drive two hundred miles on a charge the reality of like but I’m driving uphill most of the day I’m not going to get that kind of mileage that’s lived experience versus in the in the lab experimentation.
Correct correct.
Um, but that’s why I also included the numbers from those pilot projects in India where it’s like they’ve been using this this electric boat for six months or a year and here’s what the cost differences look like compared to a comparable other boat because like that was to me the the nail the coffin for. People saying? oh it’s it can’t work. It’s like no, it’s been being used and here’s how much it’s been costing them over the course of the past six months to a year to use this boat compared to an alternative that’s diesel powered. It’s like you can’t really argue with the fact of that’s cheaper. It’s like it’s his on the face but he is right with the nuance of yeah of course, you’re not going to get.
Yeah, yeah.
What it says on the sticker all the time That’s not possible but in the video I also brought up the whole point of um for those times where you’re not getting solar production. You can charge the boat on Shore when you’re at Shore and you’re docked. You can charge up and there’s a lot of places where you dock your boats where they give that to you for free like you don’t even have to pay for it in some cases.
I think that that will go away I am in my experience that kind of that kind of thing will go away because right now the the dock owners are looking at. We’ve got 400 boats docked here. 2 of them want to plug in I got no problem with that.
So it’s yeah, yes, that’s going to go away. Yes.
The moment. It’s a majority of the boat’s plugging in that dock owner is going to be like this is this is not going to be Okay, it also provides an incentive for the dock owners to maybe put in some solar panels of their own and maybe be generating and storing some electric power to then sell. So.
They’re going to charge.
There’s maybe a little bit of a profit motive. That’s potentially here from that that side of it as well.
I mean we we’re also talking about like the the difference in operational costs and you brought up how these boats cost more upfront. The same argument is you could use for electric vehicles for the longest time electric vehicles are way more expensive up up front but they save you a lot of money over the life of the car and I’ve been living one with now forever. 3 years and I can attest to that that yeah it was more expensive upfront, but my cost of running that car is basically nothing because I charge mine off solar panels and I don’t have I’ve never had to do maintenance on it. So it’s like it’s it’s been great. Um, but yeah.
Can I interrupt you real quickly right? there before you move on to your next stage. Do you have a regular tuneup. Do you have a regular checkup. Do you have any kind of thing that that you have to do with that car.
It’s recommended for the typical things you do with your car like after x number of miles or time rotate your tires. Ah, it’s that kind of stuff. Um, there are tesla does have their thing where like after a year you might want to check this after 2 years you might want to change out the air filters after this amount of time you might want to do this. But they’re like suggestions. It’s not like there’s a set schedule you have to like stay to so it really is minimal maintenance on an electric vehicle but electric vehicle prices are dropping because as you do mass production of anything the prices to produce per unit drop and so right now. We’re at a tipping point for electric vehicles where they’re getting damn close to price parity upfront to a gasoline car and so once you hit that on top of the savings you get for operational costs suddenly electric vehicles will look appealing to everybody and then in time its expected electric vehicles will actually get slightly cheaper than gasoline cars. The same can be said for these boats. It’s like right now. It’s super early days so they’re crazy expensive. But if this starts to catch on and these companies start to produce more and more of these boats and there’s more options on the market and they’re. Making them faster and cheaper than they can today. It’s like the prices of those boats are going to drop and at some point could match price parity to a diesel equivalent and if that happens just like for electric vehicles. It’s going to be the final nail in the coffin. Everybody’s going to want to switch over because it’s like upfront it doesn’t cost extra and we save money in the long term so it’s like. It. It makes the argument much easier to switch once you hit that price parity point.
Right? And the numbers as you provided from the India companies seem to be very pragmatic from a a mass um a mass population.
Use and the numbers for the mega Yachts The the prices of those things. The prices are astronomical but the prices of a normal yacht are astronomical and so I looked at those numbers and I was just like it really isn’t the people who are going to be looking at buying a yacht.
Aren’t going to be balking at that anyway. So for them. The idea of like oh I can spend another $500000 and get an electric one. There’s going to be a little bit I I would not be surprised if the thinking among the Megarich who are buying those would be along the lines of. But it gives me something that’s newer than my friend. It gives me something to brag about to my friend circle. It gives me something that is cutting edge. It’s the best of the best compared to like why would I want to putter around with something that’s burning diesel and. Making all that noise and putting out all that smoke and that was one of the comments from Runty Robot he pointed out. It is no small thing to say that these things run silent. There is a real. Issue with noise pollution. Especially if you’ve been anywhere near a boat marina. There is. There’s an impact on neighborhoods. There’s an impact on the surrounding wildlife the noise of boats affects sea life and it is. Part of the impact. It’s part of the pollution that we put into the environment that remains obscured because we you can see the smoke coming out of the back of a boat. You know that there’s exhaust there but you may not realize that underneath a marina the sea life has fled that. The waters. Therere effectively dead because so much of the life. There has run away from the constant rumbling noise of human-made engines. So it’s things like that that could have another layer of impact and somebody who’s looking to spend $2000000 on a boat I really don’t think they’re going to be like.
This is.
Oh boy, 2.5 I don’t think so like I think I think the mega rich are are going to be saying like yeah, give me the newest one give me the one that runs silent.
Well like it like I said I know somebody that’s actually looking at one of these um I wouldn’t call them mega rich but they’re clearly they have money but their view on it is they like the appeal of how quiet it is they like the appeal of how cheap it is to run compared to a diesel one. So yeah, it’s a little more upfront. But they they’re recognizing over the next three to five years of sailing around in this boat. It’s going to cost them far less to do it on that boat than buying. Ah ah, alternative diesel. So. It’s like the it’s the win-win of it’s more comfortable to use. It’s cheaper to use even though it’s still crazy expensive upfront they’re they’re looking at quality of life of. Their reason why they’re going for it and I was just like that’s kind of cool. So good good for you.
Um, yeah, yeah, there’s also it it First of all, that’s a demonstration that you and I run in very different circles.
Ah I know one person that can do this? Yeah yeah.
Well, that’s that’s your 1% I don’t even have that 1% it is a there’s also I would think the idea of okay if I’m on this boat in the middle of the ocean. And it has the ability to produce power even if I can’t drive the engine Even if I can’t like get thrust from the engine the ability to still have radio and lights running the ability to generate power without burning fuel that you would then be wasting with a generator. And having a generator or having a battery backup to know that you could sustain yourself for days if you needed to away from a port maybe during a storm or something like that that seems like a little bit of a built-in safety net which I think would also be. Ah, draw So was there in your research was there any thing that you found that showed the combining and I bring this up because of comments where some people were saying well wind seems like the better option and of course wind powered boats.
Nothing new there. Um, but the combo the hybrid of sailboat with this kind of solar panel array. Did you see anything in that vein.
I didn’t find anything substantial in that area which surprised me it did surprise me. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s surprising yeah in a similar vein have you seen anything along the lines of flexible fabric solar panels because that seems like it would be a perfect mesh with a sailboat.
Technically, you could because we do have thin film solar panels so they are flexible but they’re not flexible like you would need them to be for a sale which would be constantly undulating and changing shape. Ah so we don’t have anything. That would be cost effective and be able to stand that wear and tear yet. Um, but there is stuff in the labs if that could do it but it’s still in the lab. So maybe in 30 years maybe you’ll see stuff like that. But but right now no.
Yeah, only now does it occurred to me that I may have just spewed a million dollar idea out into the ether I don’t have the technical know how but I got the I got the ideas so listeners. What do you think about all this do you see a future for solar powered. Boats or even beyond boats. Do you see the potential for solar paneled mass transit in your communities in your cities or are you even beginning to see it actually happen. Let us know you can tell us about it via the contact info in the podcast description or you can. Leave a comment on Youtube directly below the video please do subscribe and share us with your friends and don’t forget there are ways you can directly support the podcast you can go to visits you can visit still tbd fm you’ll see the support the podcast link there. And as I mentioned before on Youtube there is the join button below the video you could become a member that way as always. We appreciate your listening or your viewing please be sure to give us a rating or review and share us with your friends all of that really does help the podcast. Podcast helps the channel the channel helps Matthew and then Matthew steals my million dollar idea for a solar sale. Thanks so much for listening everybody I’m already bitter talk to you next time.
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