Electric road vehicles are slowly but surely making progress. According to figures published by the International Energy Agency worldwide sales were up by 40% in 2016. But an electric-powered ship – isn’t that technically impossible? A few years ago, we would have agreed, but advances in electric power storage and generation have made this emission-free dream come true – in Finland, for example. A 525-ton ferry with the appropriate name ELEKTRA (shown on the picture) is now transporting up to 375 passengers and 90 cars through the islets off the Finnish port of Turku. The batteries for this Finferries vessel were manufactured by Siemens, a company with a long tradition in electric-powered vessels with the first one built as long ago as 1886! In the Norwegian city of Trondheim Siemens employs more than 1,000 people in the development and construction of electric-powered fishing vessels, working boats and ferries. Siemens built the world’s first e-ferry, the AMPERE, in 2015 and is currently expanding its battery production facility in Trondheim.
Besides powerful batteries, the ELEKTRA, which was built at the Crist Yard in Poland, also has three diesel engines for the winter months when more power is needed to break any ice that may form. But the ship’s batteries certainly deliver enough power for normal operations, and are repeatedly charged during the five-minute stopovers at the jetties. These batteries are expected to have a service life of ten years and the money Finferries is saving in fuel will have offset the higher cost of the ELEKTRA within five years. Siemens’ battery technology is also being deployed on the hybrid ferries Scandlines is operating between Rostock and Gedser, for example, and here too there are plans for an all-electric vessel. As yet, e-mobility at sea is confined to ferries. For an electric-powered containership, cruise vessel or tanker you’d need a second vessel full of batteries simply to generate enough power for the main ship! But just as e-ferries were nothing but a pipedream a few years ago, who knows what the future of e-mobility at sea may hold?