Ellen’s pure battery propulsion is groundbreaking – and the interior design portrays this green theme
Danish operator Ærø Kommune’s fully electric ferry Ellen breaks several technological barriers when it comes to its all-battery propulsion – but how does it convey its green and environmentally friendly themes when it comes to its interior design?
With its route covering a 22-nautical mile round trip, Ellen travels a greater distance than any other fully electric ferry and has the largest battery pack installed at sea. Having been operational since August 2019, it is also likely to be the first electric ferry – and is certainly so for the Danish flag – to have no emergency back-up generator.
The ferry operator was keen to transfer themes of energy efficiency and convey its unique propulsion in the interior design of the vessel.
Ærø Kommune e-ferry project co-ordinator Trine Heinemann told Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review “One thing we wanted was to convey that the ferry was special. We thought, if a passenger did not know anything about Ellen, how can we show that the ferry is special?”
Interiors: a ‘special’ ferry
The solution was to hang streamers and banners on the car deck walls, the sides of the ferry and the walls of the passenger spaces that include scenes of nature, trees and wind turbines proudly declaring the word ‘e-ferry’.
Ms Heinemann says “We hope people who do not know how special the ferry is will go on board, see the banners and will realise and pick up on the advantages of using batteries, such as the quietness and lack of vibration on board.”
The wind turbine motifs, which appear on the car deck walls and in the passenger lounge are significant as the island of Ærø has many wind turbines producing wind energy.
The nod to the island of Ærø’s environmental friendliness in the interior decor is important to the ferry operator. As the island’s mayor explained at the official inauguration of the ferry “The ferry’s contribution to a fossil-free future fits with our island. Our goal is to be self sufficient and CO2 neutral by 2025 and fossil free by 2030 and we are on our way to achieving these goals.” He alluded to wind power as being an important part of this.
Ms Heinemann described the banners used as very durable, obviously a critical quality. The ferry operator hired interior design company Danish Ship Décor to design the interiors of the ferry and creating the visuals was part of its role.
Explaining why the ferry operator hired a ship interior designer to take care of the interiors, Ms Heinemann says “These ferries are often run by municipalities and you can get into a situation where lots of people have opinions about colours and so on, so very early on the decision was taken to hire a design company to avoid this.”
As well as creating imaginative environments, Danish Ship Decor emphasises that all its products are IMO-certified and comply with the strictest regulations for off-shore installations. It uses materials such as aluminium, laminate and vinyl to create the illusion of veneer or wood-panelled interiors. Products are also chosen for low maintenance and easy cleaning.
The island theme is imprinted in the interiors in other ways: in the passenger lounge and cafeteria area, photographs frame one whole wall, showing a wide range of scenes from the island. Ms Heinemann explains “In the lounge we were trying to strike a theme, so all of the artwork is from the island as we ran a competition. All kinds of people sent photos and we selected the ones to put up in the ferry. We selected them by trying to fit them into the colour scheme and we didn’t want just romantic summer places, so we included a mix of things and places on island.”
A Nordic colour and furniture theme was chosen, with dark colours and sleek furniture. This was balanced with splashes of green, such as the doors and litter bins, in a nod to the green propulsion of the ferry. Ms Heinemann adds “It is also our chief engineer’s favourite colour!”
The seats and tables in the passenger area needed to be lightweight but comfortable. Ms Heinemann explains the considerations “All the lifesaving equipment is kept within the benches, which means they had to be a certain size. They couldn’t take up too much space but ideally had to be comfortable to sit on and indeed, we did try out a lot of chairs.”
To compensate for the weight of the batteries, the rest of the ship was made as lightweight as possible and this included the furniture. The chairs and tables are slightly slimmer than ones normally used on ferries, to save weight.
The lightweight designs and the nod to being as environmentally friendly as possible are particularly seen in the tables and benches used on the deck. The shipyard found an urban company in Copenhagen that constructs outdoor furniture out of recycled paper.
Ms Heinemann says “We needed the deck furniture to be lightweight and durable and the shipyard found a company in Copenhagen that makes this furniture. We visited them and saw their furniture was durable as some had been outside for a long time. The fact it is lightweight and made out of recycled material is nice and we are pleased with this. The furniture is also more funky than that traditionally used.” It is much more lightweight than traditional solutions such as wood.
Indeed, making the vessel as light as possible was a priority. “We designed it as lightweight and energy efficient as possible, as the less power you need the less batteries, therefore a lot of thinking has been put into making sure we have the most energy efficient design,” says Ms Heinemann. “And the passenger areas and interiors were part of this thinking as well.
The vessel has used innovative ways to reduce weight. Ms Heinemann singled out that many passenger ships have ramps attached to them. “But we do not have that. Instead, we have a very big ramp on shore, so we bring the weight on to shore rather than the ship.”
Another weight saving innovation is that the ferry design has cut out one deck from the superstructure by bringing the passenger areas to the same level as the car deck, saving on a lot of steel. And rather than use steel, the bridge is constructed from aluminium.
Snapshot CV: Trine Heinemann (Ærø Kommune)
Trine Heinemann is project co-ordinator for the EU Horizon 2020 funded project, E-ferry. Before joining the E-ferry project, by appointment with the municipality of Ærø, she worked as a university researcher and lecturer in communication, design and innovation at various universities in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands.