A zero-emissions high-speed ferry is being developed by Fjellstrand shipyard to operate in Norway from 2022
Fjellstrand has been awarded €11.7M (US$13.1M) to develop an all-electric high-speed passenger vessel to operate at 25 knots between Stavanger and Hommersåkat on the west coast of Norway, together with Rogaland County Municipality and other members of NCE Maritime CleanTech. This project will also conduct studies for the same type of vessel in London and the inland waterways of Belgium.
The Norwegian players contributing to the vessel’s development are all members of Maritime CleanTech. Besides Rogaland County Municipality they are Leirvik, Servogear, Wärtsilä and Hydro Extrusions Norway. Valide and Kolumbus are also taking part in the project along with Wärtsilä Holland (Netherlands), MBNA Thames Clippers (UK), University of Strathclyde (UK), Fraunhofer IEM (Germany), HSVA (Germany) and Waterwegen & Zeekanal NV (Belgium).
Fjellstrand Yard R&D sales manager Edmund Tolo says, “This ferry is intended for very short routes and for maybe one hour of operation, and in Norway nothing can compete with the electricity [in terms of energy cost] that you get from the grid.”
The shipyard is currently designing the vessel, which will be operated by Rogaland County Municipality.
Mr Tolo highlights the main considerations and challenges. “We know we can build the vessel, we have enough to see that this makes sense, the big challenge is to build this in an efficient way so that it can be competitive.”
Keeping the weight down is crucial when it comes to building a high-speed ferry, and one way this vessel will see a reduced weight is that it is all-electric, rather than the more common diesel-electric. Mr Tolo explains “If we had made it hybrid there is added weight as there are the systems around the engines and the fuel you carry so if you get rid of that, you free space and weight for batteries on board. If the ferry is travelling really fast, we think there is no room for hybrid systems.”
Highlighting more benefits of using a pure battery solution over diesel-electric, he says “There are quite a lot of maintenance costs in a typical fast ferry – and so much is related to the diesel engines on board, the oil, filters, piping systems and you need to overhaul diesel engines. Therefore, we strongly believe these battery systems will be much cheaper to operate in the long run. Electric solutions do not require much maintenance.”
The battery supplier has not been decided yet, but Wärtsilä, which is delivering all-electric solutions to the fast ferry, will buy the batteries in. The batteries will be placed in the hull. Mr Tolo says, “The battery package will be quite substantial and this and the electric systems will be a very big part of the vessel in terms of weight and volume.”
The shipyard is working hard to keep the weight down. Mr Tolo says “We are working with suppliers and partners to refine every piece to see if it is possible to get something lighter. Weight is so crucial for a high-speed ferry.”
This aspect also has an impact on the charging structure of the ferry. Mr Tolo says “The batteries will be plugged on shore when it comes into Stavanger, they will connect to a plug. This needs to look a bit different as on ferries like this, the charging system needs to be built much smaller, neater and lighter. We are working with suppliers that work with connectors and redeveloping industrial connectors to fit.”
The shipyard has experience of building electric ferries as it built the world’s first fully battery-powered car ferry Ampere, delivered to its owner Norled in 2015.
Mr Tolo explains “When we built Ampere, there were no [safety] rules to how this should be done so everything was worked out from risk analysis. We have to do that today too but a least a lot of work has been done on what kind of standards the batteries should meet. Norwegian Maritime Authority has issued some clear regulations.” Risk analysis covers insulation, fire-fighting, cooling and ventilation safety.”
The other major difference between Ampere and the fast ferry the shipyard is currently building is that while the “whole philosophy behind it is the same, we must recognise that all the equipment in a fast ferry has to be lighter, smaller and more efficient”.
The shipyard is running an extensive amount of CFD analysis on the hull, together with its consortium partners the universities of Athens and Strathclyde, while HSVA in Hamburg will test the hull.
The Rogaland ferry will use propellers rather than waterjets. Mr Tolo says, “When we have plenty of water depth and the speed range a propeller is the most efficient.”
Servogear will supply its Ecoflow Propulsor.
The shipyard has big plans for this design – it is not just intended for Rogaland County Municipality but elsewhere too. Mr Tolo says, “We think highly populated areas will benefit from electric vessels and we want to sell it elsewhere.”
Therefore, the shipyard is looking to make the design modular. Mr Tolo explains “We are looking at all concepts, from bigger, smaller, faster and slower ferries, and also whether they will use propellers or waterjets. Then depending on the needs of the design, we will have a modular system that can be interchanged and where we can some swap elements. For example, if a future vessel needs to be longer than the one we are currently working on, we will change one of the modules to make it longer.”
He compared it to the Airbus strategy. “It is bit like what is happening with Airbus, they have three different sizes of planes with the same wings.”
He singled out the most important element of the modular design. “The most obvious part is the engineering fit – this is thought out from the start; we think we need to design this way to be competitive in the future.”
Mr Tolo has high hopes that the ferry will have a big impact on the fast-ferry industry. “I really hope so – when we introduced batteries on Ampere, this was met with a lot of sceptical comments, but it has been a real gamechanger. We believe we have only seen the start of the development of batteries – they are becoming lighter and of higher capacity. When we built Ampere, the maximum capacity available was 1.2 MW – but today you can buy off-the-shelf batteries of 7 MW.”