Wightlink’s new ferry Victoria of Wight runs on a battery hybrid system. The ferry operator’s project director explained why this choice was preferable to going fully electric or using LNG
Wightlink’s new ropax ferry Victoria of Wight runs on battery hybrid and its project director John Burrows believes that this is the way forward for the ferry operator, over alternatives such as LNG.
“We initially hoped to run on LNG, but it is a bit of a chicken and egg product,” explained Mr Burrows. Wightlink had been hoping that one of the ports it was using would provide bunker facilities, but this did not materialise. Wightlink itself was not going to use enough LNG to make it worthwhile investing in its own bunker facilities and therefore the company decided upon a diesel/battery hybrid system.
Mr Burrows said “We are very lucky to live in one of most beautiful parts of the UK; we have a green agenda and are also very mindful that we operate very close to residential property. We were looking for a solution to minimise fuel consumption and that equals lower emissions, less pollution and a propulsion package that is significantly quieter than other ships.” Using batteries ticked these boxes.
In Victoria of Wight, batteries provide a support service to the diesel generators in operation and work as generators in harbour mode. The batteries are charged from the diesel generators. Four 1,100 kW engines have provided by Wärtsilä.
Mr Burrows added: “The beauty of it is that any engine can drive any propeller, so if we take an engine out to do maintenance, all four propellers are still running.”
Hybrid versus fully electric
Explaining why the ferry operator decided against full electric propulsion, Mr Burrows said that when the contract for the vessel was entered into three years ago, “battery technology was racing on”, but was in no position to offer the company the option of full electric propulsion. “We needed diesel on board and Wärtsilä’s hydrid system suits our needs perfectly.”
Sea trials showed Victoria of Wight could run on batteries alone for 50 minutes, although Mr Burrows said there were no plans to run the vessel solely on batteries.
Indeed, he indicated that if the company were to order another new vessel, it would also be powered by battery dual-fuel: “Batteries have not moved on quite enough to go all-electric, and we also need the power available on shore. But Portsmouth does not have huge reserves of power and the amount that we can pull from the shore is limited.”
Still, Mr Burrows is not ruling out the all-electric option, noting that the technology is “improving very rapidly and I think there will come a time when we can move to an all-electric system”.
John Burrows (Wightlink)
John Burrows is project director for Wightlink's £45M (US$59M) investment in the hybrid energy flagship Victoria of Wight and terminal improvements at both Portsmouth and Fishbourne terminals (UK). He has held senior positions at the ferry company since 2006.