Norway is preparing to launch the world's first electric ferry in 2015. The ferry will cross the Sognefjord fjord, linking the two towns of Lavik and Oppedal taking just ten minutes to charge its batteries when docked.
The 262.5-foot catamaran is capable of carrying 120 cars and 360 passengers, and will be powered by two 11-ton electric motors each driving a separate propeller. Normal cruising speed for the vessel will be around ten knots, only requiring some 440kw of output, though the motors are capable of a maximum of 800kw.
The lower output (compared to the current diesel powered ferry's 1,500kw) comes from the twin hulled design and use of aluminum versus steel. That brings the weight of the vessel down to about half that of an equivalent conventional vessel, allowing for the savings.
When docked at either village, the batteries will take ten minutes to charge, though it's not clear whether one crossing will completely tap out a charge or whether a recharge could be even quicker if it only needs a partial charge.
The communities it will serve are obviously committed to the project as their local power grids will be serving the project. The ferry's batteries will definitely be using some juice as the local grids couldn't handle a live recharge — the ferry will have to draw from batteries at each port that slowly draw power from the grids to stay topped up.
Of course an electric ferry also has environmental benefits that make the plan attractive, not to mention potential savings in diesel costs. The current ferry burns over 260,000 US gallons of diesel each year and emits 628 tons of CO2 and 16.5 tons of nitrogen oxides.
With the greater efficiencies and lower environmental impact, it's hard to not see the advantages of the ferry developed jointly by Siemens and Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, and initiated by shipping company Norlend. After winning a competition held by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, Norlend now has the rights to operate the vessel on that route through 2025.
All eyes will be on the project to see if it delivers. Norway is a country filled with fjords and ferries. Some have suggested that if it is a success all ferry crossings over 30 minutes should use an electric powered ferry — and that would be a lot of ferries.