World's first car-carrying electric ferry to see use in Norway


January 11, 2013

The world's first car-carrying electric ferry is scheduled to begin operations in Norway, in 2015

The world's first car-carrying electric ferry is scheduled to begin operations in Norway, in 2015

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Presently, the Norwegian villages of Lavik and Oppedal are linked by a ferry that burns about a million liters (264,172 US gallons) of diesel a year, emitting 570 tonnes (628 tons) of carbon dioxide and 15 tonnes (16.5 tons) of nitrogen oxides. That’s about to change, however, as it’s slated to be replaced by what is claimed to be the world’s first all-electric car-carrying ferry. Developed by Siemens and Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, the vessel can recharge its batteries in just ten minutes.

The 80-meter (262.5-foot) catamaran can carry 120 cars and 360 passengers across the fjord between the villages. It is powered by two 10-tonne (11-ton) electric motors, each one driving a separate propeller. Those motors have a combined maximum output of 800 kilowatts, although for the ferry’s usual cruising speed of 10 knots, an output of 400 kW should suffice.

By contrast, the diesel ferry currently in use on that route puts out 1,500 kW. Part of the reason that the electric ferry needs less oomph lies in its streamlined twin-hull design, and the fact that it weighs about half as much as an equivalent-sized conventional vessel. Those weight-savings are largely due to the use of aluminum in its hull construction, as opposed to the more traditional steel.

As noted earlier, it will be able to recharge its batteries in only ten minutes, when docked at either of the villages – it’s not clear if that figure is for recharging from an almost empty state, or simply topping up. In any case, the electrical grids of both communities won’t be able to handle such a demand all at once. Therefore, the ferry will draw upon batteries installed at each port, which will themselves be recharged slowly from the local grid.

Shipping company Norled, which initiated the electric ferry project, entered the vessel in a contest put on by Norway's Ministry of Transport. As the winner of the competition, the company has been granted a license to operate the ferry on the route from 2015 to 2025.

It has been suggested that all other Norwegian crossings of less than 30 minutes in length could also be served by electric ferries.

Source: Siemens via Inhabitat

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

This is an improvement....

However why do they need 10 tonne motors for 400kW.

Possibly they should have stated the torque of the motors, as it is actually more relevant.

The 1500kW diesel motor is most likely turning at a higher rate than the stated electric motors, which are likely mated to directly to the propeller without a gearbox. The propeller may only be turning at 100-400 rpm, while a deisel engine may be rotating at 1500 RPM or greater.

As Power = Torque*Angular velocity (radians per second)

It is common for electric motors replacing internal combustion engines to be lower in power rating, as they develop a lot more torque at lower revs. Also add a more streamlined Hull, and the power reduction is not surprising....

I had a look on the map, and the distance of this ferry service (it is a regular ferry service) is only 5km. They could fairly easily avoid having to carry a large battery bank on board by using a reel in- reel out power cable carrying mains power from the shore to the boat... (If there is a mid section where the cable can be anchored to the seabed, they would only need stowage space for 3km of cable at the most.... This system is used in shuttle cars in underground mining operations... maybe this is thinking too far outside the box... Also, it is possible that the installation of the cable would exceed the cost of a batterypack with no guarantee that its life would be any greater....

One positive thing about having a trailing cable is that once it leaves the vessel, it will descend to the bottom fairly quickly as it will have a reasonably low tension on it as it is not a pull-cable.

Of course there may need to be a battery on board as well in case the power supply from shore fails.... (or the cable is cot for some reason...)

Sorry for thinking out loud.


A light and efficient hull makes sense but I would really prefer keeping several days of high energy operation worth of fuel aboard to deal with an emergency.

Granted it is unlikely that both electric grids will go down at the same time but how long will the ferry be able to keep functioning if they do? Can it stay in service if just one side looses power? How long can it stay under power if a storm make docking impossible?


@MD: I've been on one of its neighboring ferries. These ferries cross a fjord, many of which are more than 1 km deep. Anchoring a cable to the sea bed isn't an option. A cable is not an option entirely, because very large ships should be able to enter the fjord, and there are a handful of ferries in each of the larger fjords.

Joris van den Heuvel

Slowburn, if it cant dock why would it be in service? The two areas are all of like 6km away I highly doubt a freak storm would catch them off guard. What I am curious about is how much it would cost to simply build a bridge...

Nick Thompson

re; Nick Thompson

Storms are not fully predictable. The Captain would believe that he would be able to make the trip safely but the storm gets worse faster than he anticipated. It has happened before and the captain was praised for his seamanship for taking the ferry out to sea and keeping her afloat for days. A tornado could destroy the docking facility as well.


Tornadoes that cause any kind of damage are extremely rare in Norway, and storms in those fjords are seldom very powerful because the fjords are narrow and deep most of their length. As to why they dont build a bridge, well, the problem is that the fjords mostly are very deep so you would have to have a free span of more than 5 km, and that will cost a lot, if it is technically possible. Norway only has a population of 5 million, so there's a limit as to how big projects wil be started. Also, Norway has very much hydroelectric power, more than 95%, and it would be sensible to use this power for transportation because it is completely emmission free. There are plans for a ferry-free road all along the west coast of Norway, and although this is something that probably won't be started this decade they say that the technology for this is available today. Because the fjords have been carved out by glaciers moving westwards, they have carried rocks with them and dropped them as they melted. That's why the fjords are very deep where they start and rather shallow at the point where they reach the open sea. Sognefjorden, the worlds second longest fjord at 220 km, is 1300m deep where it starts, and less than 200m at its treshold.


Using batteries to charge batteries seems like just multiplying inefficiencies. Factor in the original energy conversion of the utility plant, transmission line losses, batteries charge/discharge losses, and I suspect the actual carbon footprint is much larger now. Why not just put efficient diesel motors in the new aluminum cat? The new design alone would have cut the footprint, if that is the real driving factor here, in half.


How do they operate hydraulics and other peripheral systems? I've an EV aficionado but boats needs a lot of hydraulic pressure, usually hard to meet with electric pumps.

Nicolas Zart

I call bullsh*t on the 10 minute recharge, suspect very strongly that it's actually battery CHANGE, not a battery recharge. Having worked around electric forklift trucks I can tell you unless there's been a giant leap in battery technology the batteries are probably going to be recharging at the dock and swapped out for each run.


re; PeetEngineer

Lots of tiny batteries.


re; Nicolas Zart

Using hydraulics on an electric ship would be foolish. Electric motors can do everything that you would use hydraulics for assuming that they choose to use powered equipment. Given the vessels size and assuming mechanical advantage and counterweights there is nothing that can not be conveniently done by a reasonable fit adult.


why are they not using nano solar to charge up?


The most stylish ferry I have ever seen! And my first impression was correct, Karolina Adolfsson, Industrial Designer from Sweden, have designed the ferry and produced the illustrations. Karolina is an outstanding designer who also created the housing of my invention SoundRacer (see the 2nd most viewed Gizmag video "Shonky and the SoundRacer V8")

Kenneth Palmestål

Batteries need to be sized to handle about two and a half trips, be fast charge capable, and swappable for service reliability purposes. For example, if there is a charging problem, a swapping unit is down, or other problem then the boat can wait until it reaches the other side to fill or swap the battery. Additionally, most batteries have a window of minimum and maximum charges which allow long service life. Furthermore, here in the Puget Sound region we have a high density of ferry routes (30 min to 1hr long) that swap boats during maintenance periods and shifts in capacity demand. The extra range can allow the boat to make the trip without tow or hop from terminal to terminal. One other added feature for reliability and extended range is to build a tethered battery barge with it's own propulsion either at the terminals or centrally located charging points (near a windmill) as an auxiliary automated tow truck or caddy. The tether would need to be a wireless/inductive knuckle with magnetic coupling similar to how tanker planes refuel jets for long trips. Other ships coming into the sound can caddy by these barges as well and help eliminate emissions near population centers.

Gary Richardson
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