Sailing 600,000 kilometres is an impressive feat even aboard modern luxury yachts. It's downright astounding to do it without using a single drop of oil.
At 31m long and 15m wide, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is the largest solar-powered ship to sail the seven seas. It just became the first watercraft to circle the planet using nothing but the sun's energy.
Built by German boat-building firm, Knierim Yachtbau, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar cost €12.5 million ($16 million). Its deck is covered in 537sqm of solar panels — 38,000 individual photovoltaic cells — producing up to 120kW of electricity. That's fed to six massive lithium-ion battery blocks, which, in turn, power four electric engines. These engines drive a pair of 1.8m wide, semi-submerged, counter-rotating carbon propellers — eliminating the need for a rudder and propelling the MS Tûranor at a respectable 14 knots. Granted, it can't keep up with massive cargo ships like the Emma Maersk, but it also doesn't burn 385mL of diesel fuel per revolution.
Since each engine only produces an average of 26hp and the solar cells have a paltry 22.6 per cent conversion rate, the MS Tûranor is designed for efficiency. Its 86-tonne hull is built from a foam core sandwiched between layers of carbon fibre and resin. This makes for a lightweight but extremely durable hull, while extensive hydrodynamic and aerodynamic testing have ensured minimal drag.
A crew of six piloted the Tûranor during its 585-day trans-oceanic voyage. It launched from Monaco on September 27, 2010, and sailed west for 19 months. This past Friday, May 4, the boat came home. With a world record now under its belt, the Tûranor will be converted into a 40-passenger luxury yacht. Because, you know, Monaco.