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Switzerland builds world's largest solar powered boat

Model of the "Mobicat", which will take to the water next June


Land-locked Switzerland is soon to start assembling the world's largest solar-powered boat at Nidau, close to Biel.

The catamaran MobiCat, which will be able to transport 200 passengers, is to play a central role in Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02.

On Tuesday, a special convoy transported one of the boat's hulls, which measured 33 metres and weighed 18 tonnes, from Langenthal to Nidau. The mission was accomplished without any hitches, confirmed spokesman Sabastien Vogel.

The other hull is due to be dropped off on Wednesday. The two hulls will be connected by a crossbar that will support the solar-powered engine.

The boat is estimated to cost around SFr2 million and will be the first solar-powered vessel that is used commercially on a lake. Its designers hope to have the ferry in the water by the beginning of the summer.

The boat will be able to operate for several hours without the sun. And when the sun refuses to shine long enough, batteries will kick in to give a helping hand.

The boat is destined to ferry passengers on lakes Biel, Neuchatel and Murten. It will also be used to stage exhibitions throughout Expo.02 in the summer of 2002.

Finally, the project's managers have attempted to please environmentally-conscious visitors to Expo.02 by stating that the boat will not emit any toxic substances into rivers or lakes.

swissinfo with agencies


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