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Norway operates world's first all-electric car ferry

05 July 2015

Siemens delivers the electric propulsion system and charging stations powered from hydro power sources for the world's first all-electric car ferry. Effectively emissions-free, the ferry uses just 150kWh per journey, slashing the operator's fuel costs.

The first electric car and passenger ferry in the world, equipped by Siemens in cooperation with shipbuilder Fjellstrand
The first electric car and passenger ferry in the world, equipped by Siemens in cooperation with shipbuilder Fjellstrand

The world's first all-electric car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150kWh per route, which corresponds to three days use of electricity in a standard Norwegian household.

Built in conjunction with shipbuilder Fjellstrand, Siemens installed the complete electric propulsion system and installed charging stations with lithium-ion batteries which are charged from hydro power sources. With the change to battery, ship owner Norled is reducing its fuel costs by up to 60 percent.

The Norled ferry represents a milestone on the road to operating completely emission-free ferries along Norway's long coastline, with at least 50 other routes currently able to sustain battery-operated vessels.

Because the power grid in the region is relatively weak, Siemens and Norled decided to install three battery packs: one lithium-ion battery on board the ferry, and one at each pier to serve as a buffer. The 260kWh units supply electricity to the ferry while it is in dock. The battery slowly recoups all of this energy from the grid until the ship comes back again to drop off passengers and recharge.

Charging stations are housed in small buildings about the size of newsstands. The ship's onboard batteries are recharged directly from the grid at night when the ferry is not in use. The Norled ferry will consume around two million kWh per year, whereas a traditional diesel ferry consumes at least one million litres of diesel a year and emits 570 tons of carbon dioxide and 15 metric tons of nitrogen oxides.

For the Norled ferry, Siemens supplied its BlueDrive PlusC electric propulsion system. This includes battery, steering system, thruster control for the propellers, an energy management system and an integrated alarm system. Integrated automation systems control and monitor all of the ferry’s electrical systems and auxiliaries and are connected via Profibus to all other subsystems.

"We are both optimistic and excited about this technology and how it will help shape the future of environmentally friendly maritime technology," says Mario Azar, CEO of the Siemens Oil & Gas and Marine business unit. "We were pleased to apply our expertise in this field, including the electric propulsion systems, to such a worthwhile project." Responding, Norled technical director, Sigvald Breivik said his company is proud to operate the world's first electric ferry. "Siemens has been a great partner in finding innovative and sustainable solutions for our environment."

Unlike many electric cars, the emission-free ferry was developed from the ground up. The ferry, which is 80m long and 20m wide, is driven by two electric motors, each with an output of 450kW. It is made exclusively of light aluminium rather than the steel normally used in shipbuilding.

This makes the ferry only half as heavy as a conventional ferry, despite its ten tonnes weight complement of batteries and a capacity for 360 passengers and 120 vehicles. An aluminium hull also offers double the life of a steel hull, which reduces maintenance costs.

Ship owner Norled operates the route across Sognefjord between Lavik and Oppedal, Norway. Its new, all-electric ferry travels 6km across the fjord 34 times a day, with each trip taking around 20 minutes.

The project to develop an all-electric ferry came about as the result of a competition launched back in 2010 by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications and Public Roads Administration.

And, as batteries are expected to become considerably more efficient and less expensive over the coming years, Siemens believes there will be further opportunities for the maritime sector, tipping the scales further away from diesel as its most popular fuel source.

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