Spend All Day On The Lake

Solar vehicles are getting more and more common as the price of solar panels comes down, and the availability of motors and controllers for all of these vehicles rises. Making a solar-electric bike from a kit is one thing, but this solar-powered boat is a master class in hacking at all levels, from the solar drive train to the pontoons, and even the anchor.

[J Mantzel] has many videos about his boat on his channel, and watching them all will likely leave you wanting to build your own. He builds almost everything on his boat from scratch from things he has lying around. For example, the anchor was hand-built from fiberglass and then filled with concrete, and his steering system is a semi-complex system of ropes, pulleys, and shafts. Most of the boat’s shell was hand-built from fiberglass as well, and everything that can be repurposed is saved for later use.

The ten panels, batteries, inverter, and other miscellaneous part of the system were about half of the cost of the whole vessel, but he reports that he also uses the boat as a backup power source for his house, and can use the system to run other things like an electric chainsaw for example. He also uses the boat for camping and construction, and without having to worry about fuel it has been very useful to him.

If you get into the videos on the channel, you’ll find that this isn’t his only solar-powered boat. He recently completed a solar speedboat as well with a custom-built propeller that can really move across the water. His videos are apparently very popular as well, since they have been linked to repeatedly by readers in some of the recent solar vehicle write-ups we’ve published.

22 thoughts on “Spend All Day On The Lake

    1. There are lots of waterways that don’t have steady wind. For a boat that’s too big to propel by muscle power, that leaves you with electric or combustion. I’ll take the solar panels over the dinosaur burner.

    1. Or he could, you know…make/buy/reuse real gears instead of the monstrosity he did and everything would quiet down a lot more? :P
      A differential from a junked RWD car or truck should provide a nice beveled gear set. A shaft even, but that might be a little too heavy.

  1. About the price of solar panels.
    In 2000 a solar panel was $60 for a 20 watt panel.
    This is when I got my first 6 solar panels.
    Today I have 1020 watts of power connected to 6 12 volt deep batteries, 3000 watt 120 volt. inverter and 12 volt smart power and lighting system.
    Today a 20 watt solar panel cost $80 on average.
    Mined you I am not doing any online shopping for them.
    As far as I can see the price for solar panels have gone up not down like everyone is saying.

    Change of subject: Has anyone notice the price of shipping from china skyrocket.
    Like a .60 cent item now cost $28 for shipping.

    1. Small 12V panels have remained fairly expensive. So yes, if you only have space for a 20W panel, it’s pricey.
      However, home/utility panels have dropped massively. You can get a 325W, 37V panel for $165 at websites like wholesale solar, for instance. That’s 51 cents a watt, making 20 watts worth of panel a little over $10.

  2. I love this so much. Pseudo Ben Stiller on a ultra self-sufficient home-made boat. For some reason I have a real soft spot for these Waterworld creations. I’d love to just lean into my crazy hermit side someday, go off and live on some rickety old sailboat I built.

  3. His speed was amazing to me. I wonder how many batteries he is using for that craft. It seems a bit noisy for an electric. Even a submarine running good quiet on electric is not that noisy. Maybe Teflon bearings would help. A makeshift reverse periscope would be cool to see what’s down there as he chugs along. I’m pretty sure his make shift “head” is illegal in most US states (at least solid waste). I wonder what waterway he was on. I think his size of his vessel would necessitate some sort of state permit of some sort.

      1. @EETim – OK that explains a lot. Nobody there cares what he does I guess. He must be in one of the rivers coming off the canal. The only people that may balk at his overall activities is the Guaymí and Ngobe-Bugle Indians. Forget the reverse periscope. I wouldn’t want to know whats down there either. No telling what big fish or caiman are down there. Also I hope he is armed as he could encounter not so friendly people too on those rivers (i.e. Colombian narcos and human smugglers/traffickers). If he hides in his pontoons they may think he is a free-floating boat to board and commandeer. So I’ll bet he is hiding an AK-47 (et al) in his pontoon. His weather worn boonie cap and his general K.M.A. demeanor suggest he has an interesting past-life, maybe in USN or related teams?

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