The world’s first battery-powered electric ferry, Ampere, has entered service sailing between Lavik and Oppedal on the Sognefjord, Norway. Operated by Norled, the Norwegian shipping company, the venture is a major step in the evolution of emission-free ferries and significantly reduces the cost of fuel.
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In conjunction with shipbuilder Fjellstrand, Siemens installed the complete electric propulsion system and put up charging stations with lithium-ion batteries which are charged from hydro power. The vessel only uses 150 kWh per route, which corresponds to three days use of electricity in a standard household.

By changing to battery power, Norled, is reducing the cost of fuel by up to 60%. The vessel is a significant step on the road to operating completely emission-free ferries along Norway’s long coastline – there are at least 50 other routes would be capable of sustaining 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. 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. Each battery pack corresponds to the effect of 1,600 standard car batteries. The 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.

“We are proud to operate the world’s first electric ferry”, says Sigvald Breivik, technical director of Norled. “Siemens has been a great partner in finding innovative and sustainable solutions for our environment.”

On board the ferry, Siemens installed its electric propulsion system BlueDrive PlusC. It includes a battery and steering system, thruster control for the propellers, an energy management system and an integrated alarm system. The integrated automation systems control and monitor the machineries and auxiliaries on the ferry 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 business unit oil & gas and marine. “We were pleased to apply our expertise in this field including electric propulsion systems to such a worthwhile project.

The ferry, which is 80 metres long and 20 metres wide, is driven by two electric motors, each with an output of 450 kilowatts. It is made exclusively of light aluminum rather than the steel normally used in shipbuilding. This makes the ferry only half as heavy as a conventional ferry, despite its ten ton batteries.

The vessel travels six kilometres across the fjord 34 times a day, with each trip taking around 20 minutes. Batteries are expected to become considerably more efficient and less expensive in the next few years, which tip the scales further away from diesel as the most popular fuel source.