More than three centuries ago, explorers made the trip in a birch bark canoe. Tomorrow, a new breed of explorer will challenge the often treacherous Mississippi River in different kind of canoe ? one powered by the sun. The CalypSol is a solar energy based canoe created by the CalypSol Group.

CAD drawing of the CalypSol canoe

CAD drawing of the CalypSol canoe

The canoe is actually more of a trimaran than an traditional canoe. It was designed and built by a team of engineers with help from manufacturing companies around the world. Torqeedo in Germany manufactured the batteries and outboard electric motor. Two sets of solar panels independently charge two batteries which alternatively run that electric motor. A solar-powered convection fan maintains continuous air flow in the battery compartment. Highly efficient light weight photovoltaic solar modules manufactured in Italy were obtained through HighFlex Solar in California. The canoe’s main hull was fused by Melges Performance Sailboat in Zenda, Wisconsin.

Ray Christe inspects the solar panels on the CalypSol

Ray Christe inspects the solar panels on the CalypSol

The Mississippi route to which the Solar canoe will takeRay Christe, founder of CalypSol Group, designed a special sundial which indicates the best angle for the solar panels. They are articulated for optimum sun to increase the efficiency of the battery charge. The craft is also outfitted with a GPS, netbook, emergency weather radio, energy monitoring and cellular phones. Their depth finder is more sophisticated than the one from which Mark Twain took his pen name when becoming an author after he plied the same river in the 1800?s.

Christe has a history of being on the water. As early as 1986, he won best boat design in the Great Cardboard Boat Regattas. His graduation from the School of Engineering in Biel-Bienne Switzerland as an electrical engineer provided the background for the CalypSol project. Cofounder, Larry Kozak, also an athletic adventure seeker, has hiked the Swiss Alps, climbed volcanoes and challenged the waters during a Colorado Whitewater Rafting trip. A Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois enabled him to contribute to the CalypSol endeavor.

The itinerary begins in the state of Kozak?s alma mater near Chicago on the Illinois River which descends into the Mississippi River, the major waterway that splits the US into East and West. The river will take the team past ten states as their journey continues downstream.

The trip is expected to take two months with includes camping on the river banks and an occasional motel. Meals will be taken on board from morsels purchased along the way. The adventure wouldn?t be complete without stops for sightseeing along the historic route.

Rounding out the crew is Serge Kaeslin, who will leave his home in Biel-Bienne to take part in the adventure, serving as navigator and mechanical genius. Kaeslin is well suited for a trip on the Mississippi which ends in the jazz capital of the US, New Orleans, Louisiana. Kaeslin, a jazz saxophonist, will be right at home at the terminus of the sojurn in the city known as the Big Easy.

Sponsors of the project include Eisenmann Corp. Environmental Engineering, Hobie Cat Company, State Farm Insurance, and the Consul General of Switzerland in Chicago.

You can also contribute from the CalypSol website.

The CalypSol is ready for its epic journey down the Mississippi

If you missed seeing the CalypSol in Kankakee, Illinois at the Sustainability EXPO 2012 in April or didn?t catch them testing the craft on Crystal Lake in the same state, you can still wish the team Bon Voyage as they launch from there, or follow their progress down the Mississippi.