An Irish company markets a boat with a deck made of solar panels

The solar-powered Gridbeater Amphibian never runs out of gas: it is propelled by a lightweight electric outboard motor powered by solar panels.

“Unlike other glazed solar panels, they have a coating that allows them to be walked on and are therefore suitable as a roofing material,” explains Richard Bell of Waterways Industrial, a start-up based in Northern Ireland.

The boat, which costs $12,600 and is now showing at boat shows across Europe, is whisper-quiet. The energy collected and stored in the batteries can be used to charge other products on board or on land, such as laptops, cell phones or electric bicycles.

“The solar panels are manufactured to a unique design by a small Chinese company with whom we have a working relationship,” explains Bell, who has an engineering background.

He expects the Gridbeater Amphibian to be used for leisure on inland waterways, but it could prove a lifesaver in disaster relief areas, where road access may be impossible.

Earlier this year, a prototype traveled 65km around Loch Neagh in Northern Ireland, raising funds for the local air ambulance and rescue charities.

According to Bell, the Gridbeater Amphibian, developed with his Hong Kong-based partner Graham Rogers, is patent pending. Bell has 20 other patents under his belt; has been working in the solar industry since 2008.

Waterways Industrial also plans to offer other off-grid PV products based on the same foldable solar panels.