Solar boats from the Algarve Sun Concept sail to the final of the Green Projects Awards (and without polluting)

They are 100 percent electric, they draw their energy from the sun – which rises every day and is for […]

boat-solar-sun-sailer_sun-concept_1They are 100 percent electric, draw their energy from the sun – which rises every day and is for everyone – and can be used for a wide range of purposes, from small fishing to the promotion of maritime-tourist activities.

The Sun Concept shipyards from Olhão were created with the aim of revolutionizing the shipbuilding market, making it more Verde, and the ecological value of the vessels built there has already been recognized with its choice for finalist in the 2016 edition of the Green Projects Awards Portugal.

The solar boats of the company based in Olhão, created about a year and a half ago, were the only project in the Algarve selected for the restricted group of finalists for these awards, awarded annually by the consultancy GCI, the Portuguese Environment Agency and the Quercus association.

Competing for the final victory of this competition, in the Agriculture, Sea and Tourism category, is the SunSailer 7.0, one of the models offered by Sun Concept.

This is just one of the vessels built by the Algarve company. Sun Concept's portfolio includes boats of different types and characteristics, winking at very different recipients. Each one has its peculiarities, but all have the common denominator of being built in a way to be competitive, in terms of price, with what already exists in the market.

«We try to deliver to our customers a product that is more efficient and of the new times and that is competitive in relation to what exists, in terms of combustion engines. We try to have the same price, with more efficiency, as this is a non-polluting and environmentally friendly vessel, because it consumes no hydrocarbons and practically does not emit noise», summarized Manuel Brito, owner of Sun Concept, in an interview with Sul Informação.

Sun Concept Team_Photo Bruno Orvalho

One of the most attractive features of these boats is the fact that they “don't spend anything”. “You walk, you walk and you walk, but the fuel consumption is zero”, he revealed. And even at night, you can walk, as the Sunsailers from the company from Olho are equipped with batteries, which accumulate the energy captured from the Sun.

«We capture the energy of the sun, which, in turn, charges a set of batteries, which power the electric motors. Autonomy, which is one of the concepts we are betting on, is unlimited. Unlike electric cars, which have a problem of autonomy, which is being solved little by little, we bet on the placement of panels», he assured.

In the case of electric cars, the batteries are depleted, which requires a period of inactivity of the machine to charge. “In the case of our boats, the concept, in my view, is much more evolved. It is the sun that charges the batteries and as long as there is sun, there is always energy», said Manuel Brito.

And you don't even need a sunny day for the batteries to charge. “We all know that when we go to the beach and it's cloudy, we feel like we got burned anyway,” he explained. Also last Saturday night rides were promoted in a Sunsailer, in Faro, in an initiative of the Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve.

«Our idea was to create an autonomy of 8 to 9 hours, without sun, that is, at night. This will allow the boats to navigate in an infinite way», he guaranteed. Even so, the boats “allow charging at the marina, through the electricity network”.

This autonomy is guaranteed for the cruising speed of the vessels, which are «5,5 knots, about 12 kilometers per hour». The boat goes up to 7 knots, but if it travels at maximum speed for a long time, «the autonomy is reduced to about half».


This performance is tending to improve, as there is an increasing commitment to electrical automation, worldwide, which provides for technological advances, in the short or medium term, and a reduction in costs. Manuel Brito counts on them to improve products and launch new vessels.

“In relation to solar panels, a positive evolution is expected, but not a radical one. In other words, a gradual increase in efficiency is expected at the level of capture and that they can have more useful configurations, which can be moldable and not rigid. As for batteries, which is the essential issue, we hope that lithium batteries [the most efficient] will have a price reduction to a third of the current one», he illustrated.

As soon as this technology is at a more affordable price, “we can improve autonomy and speed together”. "The engines are already in a very evolved state, there are several powers," he said.

Not least because the idea is not to stray too far from the current price of a Sunsailer, «35 euros plus VAT, for a seven-meter boat», so that it is accessible to as many bags as possible. «Our bet is to reach everyone. I believe that we are the first company in the world to produce electro-solar vessels at an affordable price and with a high autonomy. We tried to have a suitable price, with a single drawback, limited speed. But we will improve a lot in this aspect», he assured.

«We are thinking of new models and making a great effort to present a new boat until the summer, longer – 10 to 12 meters -, with a capacity greater than the 12 people of our largest boat today and a speed of around 10 knots . Here, we will probably have two options: motorization with lead batteries, at a lower price, and another one with lithium batteries, which will be more expensive», he revealed.

This model is also created with maritime tourism companies in mind, even those that operate on the coastline and even offshore, since many of Sun Concept's models already have the capacity to leave calmer waters.



Sunsailer already travels around the country and gives rides to herons from Ria Formosa

Sun Concept's solar boats are built a few hundred meters from the Ria Formosa, a protected area where its characteristics green can be particularly useful. The sensitivity of the ecosystems existing in this lagoon system is high and the circulation in electric boats helps, on the one hand, to maintain the water quality of the estuary and, on the other hand, it helps to reduce the stress levels of its many inhabitants, by reducing almost to zero noise emissions.

“In these areas of the estuary and estuary, there are fauna that are sensitive to noise and there is an increasing number of boats circulating. If this continues, the nesting of birds and the laying of fish in these places will be increasingly at risk», illustrated Manuel Brito. In the case of solar boats, their silent performance even invites some braver birds to hitch a ride.


In this way, Sun Concept boats wink not only to the Algarve market, but to all the lagoon and estuarine areas of the country and (why not) around the world. Interestingly, despite these being “sons of Olhão” boats, it is outside the Algarve that they have generated more enthusiasm.

«We launched the first product to the market in March 2016, we are still in the product dissemination phase. We currently walk in roadshow and we have made a great effort. We were recently in Cerveira, on the border with Galicia, where we promoted a presentation together with the Inatel Foundation and offered trips to interested people. It was agreed to sell a vessel to a maritime tourist that operates on the Minho River», said Manuel Brito.

A week earlier, Sun Concept had promoted a similar action in Foz do Arelho, Lagoa de Óbidos, “which was also a success”. "We made eight trips with the vessel always full of people," he said. Meanwhile, Sun Concept has already been showing its Sunsailers in Vila Nova de Gaia and Lisbon, where it was during the Web Summit.