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Electric Ferry Takes to the Water with Volvo Penta in Sweden

1st February 2019
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Powering up electric waterways  - ElectriCity’s Volvo Penta-powered electric vessel will be the first fully-electric ferry in the city able to complete longer, multi-stop routes along the river Powering up electric waterways - ElectriCity’s Volvo Penta-powered electric vessel will be the first fully-electric ferry in the city able to complete longer, multi-stop routes along the river

In the next phase of Gothenburg’s drive to connect its residents with a seamless citywide low emission commuting network, a Volvo Penta-powered electric ferry service is being introduced into the ElectriCity transport ecosystem.

Building on the growing success of Gothenburg’s ElectriCity project, an all-electric ferry service is to be added to the City’s existing electric bus service. The electric marine propulsion system is being provided by Volvo Penta, who joins the initiative following the success of sister company’s Volvo Buses – a leading partner in the ElectriCity project – having supplied the buses to the Route 55 electric bus route in Central Gothenburg and the electric articulated buses on Route 16. Aimed to be the model of future clean urban development, the new electric-powered ferry will link both sides of the Göta River.

Gothenburg’s ElectriCity partnership is a collaboration between industry, academia and local government. It involves developing, testing, demonstrating and evaluating solutions that will contribute to the establishment of new, sustainable, attractive transportation systems and open up new opportunities for future travel, transportation of goods and urban planning. Using electric power in public transport systems helps to resolve problems such as noise and poor air quality, as well as lowering energy use and the impact of transport on the climate.

Powering up electric waterways

While Gothenburg’s waterways already feature ferries powered by electricity, in the form of diesel-electric engines, these operate on short routes across the river. ElectriCity’s Volvo Penta-powered electric vessel, meanwhile, will be the first fully-electric ferry in the city able to complete longer, multi-stop routes along the river, and ultimately incorporate quick charging capabilities.

The opening of the route is part of a longer-term plan to introduce more clean energy ferry solutions and the development of a marine demo arena. Cities around the world are often built around waterways and connecting on-road with on-water sustainable transport in a unified traffic system is a final objective.

The ferry – Älvsnabben 4 – will be converted into the all-electric drive at the hands of Volvo Penta, in collaboration with Västtrafik’s operator, Styrsöbolaget, part of Transdev. The work involves removing diesel engine-powered marine drivelines and replacing them with a battery-electric propulsion system of equal power to the outgoing diesel powerplant, but one that boasts considerably more maximum torque. Initially, the ferry will be charged overnight, supported by an onboard genset running on HVO.

The current plan is for the refit to get underway early next year, with the target of the ferry entering commercial service on the Göta river by the end of 2020.

“We fully support ElectriCity’s ambition to bring Gothenburg to life by connecting people across the city in a sustainable way,” explains Björn Ingemanson, President of Volvo Penta. “Volvo Penta has an advantage when it comes to electromobility. As part of the Volvo Group, we have access to the technology and expertise from many years of development with electric buses in the city of Gothenburg, where aspects like safety and efficiency have been at the forefront. Now, we aim to adapt this leading technology for use in a marine environment, bringing the benefits of proven technology into a new context.”

Clean. Efficient. Connected. City

Gothenburg is one of the world’s most progressive cities when it comes to addressing climate and environmental issues. The city currently has the highest ranking in the 2019 Global Destination Sustainability index. Ongoing initiatives such as the Volvo Penta-powered electric ferry service will, over time, form an integrated part of Gothenburg’s long-term clean energy transport infrastructure.

“Västtrafik is aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 percent before 2035. To reach this goal large-scale electrification of all our city services is crucial. This ElectriCity initiative is an important step in the right direction, and we are looking forward to adding the Volvo Penta fully electric ferry to our transport system”, says Camilla Holtet, director of development at Västtrafik.

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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