We’re building solar-powered cargo ships that are zero-emission and 50-75% cheaper than current ships.
tl;dr - We’re building solar-powered cargo ships that are zero-emission and 50-75% cheaper than current ships.
Hey everyone! This is Prosser, Hudson, and Jared from Voltic. We’re creating solar-powered cargo ships that are greener and cheaper than current options.
Shipping is a massive industry that contributes 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, 15% of the world’s NOx emissions and 13% of the world’s SOx emissions (Source). In other words, approximately 816,640,000,000 kg (.8 gigatons) of carbon dioxide is emitted by ships every year (Source). There is currently no generally accepted path to full sustainability for the industry.
At the same time, fuel is an enormous operating cost for ships. Ranging from 50% at shipping’s most efficient to 75% on fast or heavy routes when fuel prices are high, cargo prices are highly dependent on fuel prices (Source). This means our ships will not only be great for the environment but also sustainably cheaper than current alternatives.
We designed an initial prototype barge and tugboat that can be completely powered by solar panels. We then tested our design using industry-standard computational fluid dynamic simulation software. Our barges will be able to transport cargo in a wide variety of settings, including low sunlight and night-time thanks to onboard batteries. We plan to own & operate the barges ourselves and are filing provisional patents covering the core elements of our design.
Unlike most hardware startups working on difficult engineering problems, we do not have a multi-year, multi-round path to revenue. We can build our first profitable, commercially viable barge for less than $1M in under a year. It will pay for itself in less than 6 months.
This will be the first step towards larger coastal and oceanic ships. Long term, we want to fully power the shipping industry via solar, operating a fleet that can serve any route in the world. 🚢 🚢 🚢
We are friends who lived together at MIT, where we studied a range of subjects including Aero/Astro Engineering, Mathematics, Economics, and Electrical Engineering. Inspired by building a solar-powered plane with an MIT professor, we decided to work on this project because we are passionate about fighting climate change and love tackling hard engineering problems. We have prior startup experience ranging from speeding up hardware iteration cycles for self-driving cars at Uber to launching an app with 1M+ downloads to supply chain optimization. Outside of the classroom, we also competed in D1 & D3 athletics.
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