Future of the Fjords is the first fully electric carbon-fibre ferry, with a unique charging solution. Rebecca Moore was invited on to the ferry to hear about the project from The Fjords, shipyards and suppliers
Future of the Fjords is the first carbon-fibre vessel in the world to be fully electric. It is also the first vessel of its kind to offer completely emission-free transport through the Western Norwegian UNESCO World Heritage-listed region.
The Fjords is co-owned by transport operator Fjord1 and Flåm, which promotes tourism opportunities in the Flåm area, northeast of Bergen. The Fjords chief executive Rolf Sandvik said the reason the company had been able to construct Future of the Fjords was because of its “two very progressive owners”.
Delivered in April, The Fjords’ choice of all-electric power means the vessel is quiet, has no vibration and most importantly, is emission-free. This is especially topical as just weeks after it started operating in May, the Norwegian parliament announced it had adopted a resolution to halt emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the Norwegian world heritage fjords as soon as technically possible, and no later than 2026.
This will make the fjords the world’s first zero-emission zone at sea and means other ferries and cruise ships will be required to follow in Future of the Fjords’ footsteps.
The ferry is a sister vessel to Vision of the Fjords, which was built by the same shipyard Brødrene Aa, and delivered in 2016. But the latest vessel goes one step further as it is fully electric; in contrast, Vision of the Fjords is an electric-diesel hybrid.
World-first charging solution
It also heralds another first – The Fjords has developed a unique charging solution called the Power Dock in partnership with Brødrene Aa.
This 40 m long, 5 m wide floating glass fibre dock will sit in the water at Gudvangen, housing a 2.4 MWh battery pack. This was crucial, as it overcame the biggest challenge when it came to building the all-electric ferry. Mr Sandvik explained to the press assembled on the ferry that the company thought it could just use ‘plug and play’ to connect to the local grid. But the local community supplies Oslo with almost all of its electrical power. This means the capacity in the grid is very limited and was unable to provide the charging power needed by Future of the Fjords.
Mr Sandvik continued “[the grid would have allowed us to] charge from less capacity and do one trip a day but to make a profit, we need to do five trips a day. We thought that there would be no issue when it came to storing electricity due to the fact that the grid supports nearly the whole east of the country.”
This was certainly a huge issue, as by this point The Fjords had signed the contract for the new ferry.
Therefore, the ferry operator and shipyard came up with the Power Dock. It charges steadily throughout the day via connection to the local grid network. The innovative solution allows the vessel to stably, efficiently and cost effectively ‘refill’ in just 20 minutes.
And future plans show the great potential the Power Dock has. It has a mobile infrastructure, so The Fjords can tow it to other ports if needed. And Mr Sandvik added “It might have something for different businesses too as we see a future where it could be a holding area for energy for cruise ships, electric bikes and cars.”
The dock also stores consumables, fuel for sister vessels, and allows black and grey water to be offloaded for treatment on land. This makes Future of The Fjords the only passenger vessel not to discharge sewage directly into the fjords. “This means that we become a real zero-emission ship,” said Mr Sandvik.
Carbon fibre and battery mix
The ferry is, like Vision of the Fjords, built out of carbon fibre. The family-owned shipyard Brødrene Aa is a pioneer in building GRP sandwich construction in carbon fibre. In 2002, it started to use vacuum infusion as a production method to produce carbon fibre. It is now the biggest carbon fibre fast ferry producer in the world. Interestingly, both of The Fjords’ vessels are not fast ferries. But Brødrene Aa chief executive Tor Øyvin Aa explained to the press gathered on board Future of the Fjords “Fast ferry technology gives a lot of advantages when building a vessel like this.” Because of the lightweight qualities of carbon fibre, the vessel weighs less and has reduced fuel costs. Its high strength but low weight structure means there are reduced maintenance costs and a high secondhand value can be commanded. The hull has a low wake that creates almost no waves. This translates to fuel efficiency, as the vessel requires less energy to move.
Using carbon fibre means that less batteries at a higher range can be used. Less batteries translate into a lower vessel weight and a lower price for the vessel. There is also a shorter charging time.
Mr Aa said that a lot of the yard’s carbon fibre subcontractors were involved in the vessel: Polynt supplied the resin, Saertex developed the copper fibre and Diab provided the carbon material. “These three companies have been involved since we started using sandwich construction,” said Mr Aa.
The vessel also illustrated strides made by class when it comes to battery notations, with DNV GL classing the vessel. When construction started of Vision of the Fjords in 2014, there were no defined class rules governing the use of batteries in this particular kind of vessel. In 2012 DNV GL published the world’s first battery-class rules. These were tentative because technology was still developing. In 2015, the society published more consistent and a more prescriptive rule set. And last year another update was published based on the knowledge acquired so far and which aligned with Norwegian Maritime Authority’s requirements.
These rules consist of two notations. There is a battery safety notation that is the only notation followed if the batteries are only going to be used for peak shaving. The second is a battery power notation concerned with the capacity and availability of the battery. Future of the Fjords needed to follow both notations as it is fully electric.
DNV GL principal engineer and battery expert Sverre Eriksen said “The first notation is concerned about the safety of the batteries on board; the requirements are how to protect [the] vessel from a battery fire and about electrical safety.”
The second notation, the battery power notation, is about having control of the capacity of the batteries. Mr Eriksen said “You need proper management and need to know the state of health of the battery and test it periodically to prove that the capacity of the battery is the correct one.” The vessel needs to take care of redundancy requirements, and part of this is having two batteries in separate battery rooms.
Westcon Power & Automation provided the energy storage and complete system integration. This included its e-SEAMatic Blue energy management system, e-SEAMatic integrated automation system, e-SEA drive power conversion and two e-SEA drive electrical motors at 450 kWh each. There was also an e-SEA manoeuvring control system and the company provided the main switchboards.
Explaining why Westcon won the contract, its manager of sales and business development Frode Skaar said the solution weighed a few less tonnes compared to that used in hybrid electric cruise ship Vision of the Seas. “It was tailor made to the vessel to make it low in weight.” He emphasised that it was important to consider all components of the solution when putting together the energy storage.
The batteries came from LG Chem and were adapted for maritime use by ZEM.
Fjord1 head of projects and newbuildings Arild Austrheim told the audience it was “challenging” because batteries had not been included in carbon-fibre vessels before. But learning and education gained from battery hybrid Vision of the Fjords helped, as did the developments in battery technology. The batteries are three times more powerful on this vessel than on Vision of the Fjords, with two 900 kWh batteries compared to two batteries of less than 300 kWh each, although the space and weight of the batteries on Future of the Fjords is only 25-30% more.
Servogear provided the vessel with its electric Ecoflow Propulsor – a step-up from its original products (Ecoflow Propulsor and Hybrid Ecoflow Propulsor), as being electric it is even more environmentally friendly.
Explaining how it boosted fuel efficiency in Future of the Fjords, Servogear managing director Torleif Stokke said “Our system combines variable pitch propeller with the hull design underneath the vessel. It is about understanding how the forces underneath the hull are working and therefore ensuring that the propeller and hull are designed to work together.”
One of the most important things to consider is making the propeller bigger and turn more slowly, therefore increasing efficiency.
While he was not able to put an exact figure on the fuel efficiency of Future of the Fjords, he said it was likely to be comparable to the figure the company achieved in a similar model: a fast ferry for 450 passengers where a 30% reduction in fuel was achieved.
As well as boosting fuel efficiency a large benefit of the solution is that it cuts noise and vibration both in the sea and inside the ferry.
Mr Stokke said “Comfort is our concern, when you take away noise from the engines, propellors are left as a big source of noise. We are putting a lot of research into controlling this energy.”
He explained the challenges of cutting noise and vibration. “Propellers have to take all the energy and put it out through the sea. This pressure creates vibrations. If poorly designed, the propeller low frequency noise goes through the structure of the vessel.”
Summing up the project, Mr Sandvik said “Vision of the Fjords was the inspiration to build this ferry. We have used extremely forward suppliers. This has been a joint venture in the new use of technology.”
Future of The Fjords’ all-electric propulsion solution pushed the cost of the vessel Nkr54M (US$6.7M) above its sister ship. A Norwegian organisation Enova, promoting low-emission solutions with backing from the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, provided funding of Nkr18M to help the vessel come to fruition. Additionally, Enova provided funding of Nkr7M for the Power Dock solution.
Future of the Fjords
Length: 42 m
Width: 15 m
Propulsion power: 2 x 450 kW
Battery capacity: 2 x 900 kWh
Performance: 18 knots at 760 kW (with passengers)
Electricity consumption: less than 700 kWh per trip, equivalent to 80 litres of diesel
Power Dock statistics
Charging/capacity: 2400 kW
DC charging: 1,000V
Battery pack: 750 kWh
Tank capacities bio/diesel: 42 m3
Sewage: 20 m3
Main dimensions: 40 m x 5 m
Design and engineering: Brødrene Aa
Tailored electric propulsion and battery system: Westcon Power & Automation
Controllable pitch propeller system: Servogear
Core material hull/superstructure: Diab
Copper fibre: Saertex
Furnishing (panels bulkheads, tables, doors): Ortnevik Tre
Furnishings (chairs, tables): West Mekan
Railings, exterior: West Mekan