A solar-powered boat transportation system has been designed that combines modern photovoltaic technology with traditional indigenous knowledge.
A remote forested area at the border between Ecuador and Peru is home to an indigenous group known as the Achuar. They have lived there for centuries, but their lifestyle changed after the arrival of missionaries in the 1960s.
The Achuar commonly use motorboats for transportation, as their vast territory is crossed by several rivers. However, the use of fuel has become problematic. Not only is it expensive, but the noise of fuel-powered boat engines can scare away animals that are hunted by the Achuar. Not to mention the fact that the Amazon itself is the site of many controversial oil extraction projects, which often entail the destruction of natural biodiversity, the pollution of soil and water and the loss of ancestral lands lived on by generations by indigenous peoples. Constructing roads is also not a viable solution, as it would require deforesting parts of the lush rainforest.
Technology and Indigenous Knowledge
The Latin American Association for Alternative Development (ALDEA) has joined forces with the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador (NAE) to develop a new transportation system for the community. The result is the Kara Solar project, which aims to combine modern technology with indigenous knowledge.
The result is a solar-powered boat called Tapiatpia. It is named after a giant electric eel that, according to an Achuar legend, transported animals on its back. A rather fitting name for an electric boat transporting people across the Amazon rainforest.
Tapiatpia’s two electric motors are powered by the sun, via the solar panels that cover the boat’s roof. The generated electricity is stored in lead-acid batteries at the back of the vessel. The hull of the boat, however, was based on traditional canoes from the region, as they outperformed other designs in simulations.
Kara Solar’s vision is not limited to the boat but rather includes a whole transportation system where the Achuar can be driven to school or the doctor with the solar boat. It should also be able to facilitate the delivery of food and generate employment.
Building a Clean Future for the Achuar
Kara Solar currently only has one prototype of the solar boat and the team is raising funds to build another boat, train local people and even create a micro-grid that will provide clean energy to the Achuar. If you wish to support them, head to their crowdfunding page.
Take a look at this video for more information: