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Air Quality

Published on June 13th, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan


World’s First All-Electric Battery-Powered Ferry

June 13th, 2015 by  

A Norwegian emission-free ferry called the Ampere was granted the esteemed “Ship of the Year” award as the SMM trade show in September 2014. The ferry is reportedly the first all-electric battery-powered car and passenger ferry in the world. The battery-powered vessel, with a comfortable capacity of 120 cars and 360 passengers operating at about 10 knots, is apparently in service 365 days per year.

Emissions Free Ferry

The oil-burning, black smoke–producing ferry is passé. gCaptain approves of the choice: “Obviously, the Ampere design won and the vessel has been in operation since early 2015.”

Originating as a submission to a Norwegian Ministry of Transport competition, this innovative vessel won a 10-year license to operate the Lavik-Oppedal route beginning in 2015. The planet-friendly, water-friendly design of Ampere came out ahead of all other competitors.

“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,” added Azar.

Siemens cites differences in the building process from many electric vehicles, saying the emission-free ferry was formed from the ground up. The ferry is 80 meters long and 20 meters wide. With a svelte catamaran hull, quite lightweight and made of aluminum, the vessel features an all-electric powertrain, with two electric motors with 450 kilowatts of output each. Steel is ordinarily used in shipbuilding. Thus, the ferry is just half as heavy as a conventional ferry — even with its 10-ton batteries and a capacity for 360 passengers and 120 vehicles. Doubling the lifetime of the hull, the aluminum hull also leaves behind the maintenance required of a steel hull.

Battery Powered Ferry

Siemens shares that the lovely Ampere is designed and built by Fjellstrand shipyard. Siemens provides the battery technology to this shipyard, which is set appropriately on the southwest coast of Norway. Norled owned the Ampere and named the design of the ferry for its holding capacity of 120. However, “ZeroCast 120″ design is most definitely named for its 100% emissions-free operations.

light-weight and slender catamaran hull

lithium-ion battery charging stations Pier


Siemens assessed that the power grid in the region was not well developed. Siemens and Norled chose to install three battery packs. Each pier has one lithium-ion battery as well as one on board the ferry. Thus, turnaround times are an opportunity for the ferry to recharge at the pier — recharging in just 10 minutes.

lithium-ion battery charging stations

Hydropower supplies the lithium-ion battery charging stations at the piers with electricity. The ferry’s use of 150 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per route equals about three days’ use of electricity in a typical Norwegian household. Check out the batteries on board (below) — the equivalent of 1,600 standard car batteries according to Siemens.

Der Strom in den Batterien stammt aus Wasserkraft. Jedes Batteriepaket entspricht der Leistung von 1600 Standardautobatterien. Der Ladeprozess am Pier nimmt jeweils nur zehn Minuten in Anspruch. The batteries are charged from hydro power. This battery pack onboard, like the ones on each pier, corresponds to the effect of 1600 standard car batteries. The charging at each peer takes only ten minutes.

Siemens adds that the energy management system (EMS) interface involves sub-controllers for gensets, thrusters, and remote controls to watch and optimize engine speed. A seamless performance of the vessel smoothly runs thanks to the entirely joint working of the ship’s genset, switchboard, propulsion, and thruster control systems.

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 machinery and auxiliaries on the ferry and are connected via Profibus to all other subsystems.”

Enjoy the air as you and your car ferry takes you to another shore without the black smoke of a typical ferry.

Gas2 has also reported on a ferry converted to electric power. The Movitz was converted last year, at the Echandia Marine, a local startup. With that ferry, the battery pack also recharged in just 10 minutes, giving the Movitz enough fuel to make its hour-long journey with just a 10-minute layover. Chris DeMorro points out that the conversion is calculated to cut out 130 tons of CO2 and 1.5 tons of NOx emissions annually. DeMorro also notes that another benefit is found in operating costs. “Echandia estimates that its electric ferry cuts costs by 30%, giving ferry operators a tremendous incentive to carry out an electric conversion.”

Related Stories:

Electric & Hybrid Ship Technologies Moving Forward… In Norway, Of Course

US Marines Get New Wave Energy Device That Looks Like The Loch Ness Monster

World’s Longest Interconnector Provides UK With Norwegian Hydropower

Tesla Superchargers Could Deliver Half Charge in Just 5 Minutes

Images by Siemens ©

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan is an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • Tasikat

    So many errors in this article. 150 kWh is NOT 3 days of average household consumption. It is about 12 days of consumption. And it is not equivalent to 1600 car batteries, but about 200 car batteries. What do you expect when the author is an acupuncturist with a useless anthropolgy degree???

  • Foersom

    Why does the Norwegian ferry have a Puerto Rican flag next to the Norled name?

  • nakedChimp

    the plug is absolute incredible 🙂

  • Offgridman

    But there is a big difference between the vehicles that private individuals buy and what governments or businesses will decide to purchase. For the consumer the choice between the costs of the fuel or electricity over the lifetime of the vehicle rarely are the deciding factor. For government or commercial use it is often the highest priority.
    There are a lot of cities now switching to electric busses and trucks instead of diesel propulsion. It just seems to be happening slowly because when these vehicles are purchased it is assumed that they will have a ten year or longer usage, so it will take ten years or longer to see the change in the fleets.

    • Jacob

      This ferry only goes back and forth. It does not need a supercharger network.

      My point is that we should try to put batteries in buses, trucks, tractors, before trying to make fully electric cars that require a supercharger network.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We already have thousands of EVs that do not have access to SuperChargers and they are doing just fine.

        We already have thousands of SuperCharger bays and they are working fine.
        We can build EVs, SuperChargers, electric buses, electric garbage trucks and all sorts of other things at the same time. There is no shortage of materials, factories, labor or capital.

      • Offgridman

        On the ferry, maybe so, but reading that it has extra batteries at the charging stations so that the draw off from the grid when charging isn’t to extreme made me think that it has its own little supercharger network.
        Yes we need batteries going into trucks and busses for part or all of their propulsion, and by the articles on here and reported in the links pieces this is happening. It just doesn’t seem as obvious because the turnover of these fleet vehicles doesn’t happen as quickly as consumer vehicles.
        Even though these bigger vehicles are responsible for a larger part of the emissions, consumer vehicles are still responsible for a sizable chunk (40%?). So there is no way to say that we are going to take care of commercial vehicle emissions before we deal with those from passenger vehicles. If it takes a supercharge network to get EV’s accepted as a viable alternative to fossil fuel ones, and a private company is covering the expense of doing so, then what is the problem with that? The commercial fleet is going to continue to change over at the same time because of the straight up economics of electric propulsion being cheaper over the long term.
        Yes hybrids are great in their own niche, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to end up using them in the process of switching from fossil fueled propulsion to electric.

      • Tasikat

        Usually you don’t need a supercharger because every morning, your car is full of “gas” (electricity). Also the 2017 Leaf will have a range of 300 km. No need for an engine.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Which PHEV and which EV do you suggest we compare if you don’t approve of the Volt/Leaf comparison due to the Volt having a bit less room in its rear middle seat?

    And I’m not understanding why you think a car with limited middle rear seating area has more value than a car with more comfortable seating for five.

    • Jacob

      Honda Civic Hybrid vs Honda Civic perhaps.

  • heinbloed

    The EU is supporting the electric propulsion:


  • heinbloed
    • Tasikat

      Methanol is the best fuel to replace gasoline. Easy to generate from natural gas.

  • Dag Johansen

    They need to start selling these all over the world.

  • JamesWimberley

    This is great. If you look at a map of Norway, you will see that it has a long coastline cut in by a large number of narrow fjords. The Norwegian ferry market is large but idiosyncratic. Other countries that use ferries a lot, like Greece, the Philippines and Indonesia, tend to have longer sea routes between islands. River traffic in the Brazilian Amazon might be the next step.

  • OnlyMe999

    so those are lead-acid batteries then? How much did the ferry cost to build? You could do with putting the speed in km/h and mph too btw.

    • Offgridman

      Your battery question is answered in the article.

      “Hydropower supplies the lithium-ion battery charging stations at the piers with electricity.”

    • heinbloed

      Knots we sail.

      The building costs (or total price) can be found in the www. I’d say, if there were subsidies or any cost sharing by the government or the EU than these must be published somewhere.

      About the batteries see again the article.

      • Kevin McKinney

        “The building costs (or total price) can be found in the www.”

        Maybe so. But not easily. I tried.

        • heinbloed

          I tried as well, not easy.
          The company Norled belongs to a private shipping company:



          They publish their bookkeeping:


          But for details one might have to contact them directly:


          Just ask, they seem to have an open policy.
          They claim that the investment will be payed off quick:


          Good luck, if you can get infos don’t hesitate to publish them here.
          Interesting as well would be 2 issues: the power price and if they really manage winter traffic with the electric ferry. With an alumina hull and being a very lightweight ship low in the water (catamaran) mushing the ice in between the two hulls straight into the huge propellers I have my doubts. But it might work, please ask this as well if you get around.

          • heinbloed


            Costs per km published here:


            ” The cost of this vessel was more expensive than a typical reference vessel. However, fuel cost per km is 70 % lower than for conventional
            diesel-electric ferries (€3.1/km for battery ferry compared to €10/km for a conventional diesel-electric ferry). It is important to notice that
            the fuel cost of this ferry is only 8 % of OPEX (operational expenditure) and 4 % of the total vessel cost for the battery driven ferry, while fuel cost for a conventional diesel-electric ferries is approximately 20-25 % of OPEX, which constitutes 15 % of the total vessel cost.”

            Since the project was subsidised there must be a publication of all the financial issues, so keep digging 🙂

            Or contact the EU directly.

          • heinbloed

            Instead of ” low in the water”
            read ” shallow in the water”

          • Jacob

            You can edit your post and remove this one.

    • Matt

      1) Try to compare something that is made the same (except the batteries).
      – For example: “Steel is ordinarily used in shipbuilding. Thus, the ferry is just half as heavy as a conventional ferry” even after adding 10 ton of battery. There is less maintenance and longer life with a alum hull verse steel.
      – What other goodies did they add to this baby?
      2) Look at not just up front, but yearly maintenance.
      – Like getting a “fee” cell phone (tank for fuel) but being locked into a higher priced plan for life (fuel).
      3) This is the first one they built, so yea it cost more.
      4) There was infrastructure costs that don’t repeat with every new ferry. If they put a second ferry on this route would not need to double the batteries that are on shore. Think of the ferry fleets in Amsterdam or New York (New Amsterdam for history buffs), even Disney world runs them in pairs.

  • Michael G

    Sounds great and the operating costs savings is outstanding (as expected) but is the total cost less? I followed the links looking for an answer and didn’t find it which makes me thing the answer is no. Until we can answer yes, this may be limited to the richer, more environmentally sensitive countries. I’m all for working prototypes, and paying a little more for a cleaner environment, but not everyone is so disposed. Unless this is less costly over it’s entire working lifetime, it will remain more of a proof-of-concept.

    • Kevin McKinney

      Good question, and my searching didn’t find much to help answer it. There was this:

      “In economic terms, battery hybridisation of ferries can provide potential fuel cost savings of 10% to 30%, with a payback time of three to five years, while all-electric ferries can produce fuel cost savings of 50% to 80%.”



      You’d think an all-electric system might be less costly than a hybrid one, all other things being equal.

      But nobody seems to be divulging anything at all about the terms of the contract procuring Ampere.

      • Michael G

        Your quote could apply to a Tesla also but the initial cost is too high, so it sounds like the initial cost is too high for the ferries to make them cost effective. Still, you gotta start somewhere. Batteries will get cheaper, so it may be just a matter of time, unless something like bio-fuels gets cheaper faster.

        • Tasikat

          Lithium ion is down to $200 / kWh. The 150 kWh ferry battery can be done for $30,000. But of course it is Siemens and EU, and everything will be platinum plated, lest someone may accidentally get hurt. So the $30,000 battery becomes a $3M battery.

      • Jacob

        The belief that fully electric is cheaper than hybrid is a Tesla and Nissan promoted myth.

        Hybrid cars have been around a lot longer than Tesla cars and they do offer fuel savings and quiet operation at low speeds.

        The stop-start systems that some cars come with now are a poor man’s hybrid car.

        Diesel vehicles where acceleration is not an issue: tractors, buses, ferries, are ripe for getting batteries on board to cut diesel use.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The Chevy Volt MSRP starts at $34,345.

          The Nissan Leaf MSRP starts at $29,010.

          That looks $5k cheaper to me. Obviously the Leaf won’t work for some people who have frequent longer drive days, so it will make sense (right now) for them to pay more for a PHEV.

          But the cost of a ICE is not likely to fall much which battery costs continue to fall. We’re reaching the point at which PHEVs don’t make economic sense.

          The “Recent Conditions” box on this graph is out of date. Look at the intersection of $3 gas and $250 batteries.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I did an update, adding a June 2015 box. I used the current range of gas prices for regular – $2.49 to $3.54 per gallon.

            And I set the width of the box based on Tesla’s cost of cells from Panasonic ($180/kWh) and what I commonly read for the finished battery pack ($240/kWh).

            That box should shift to the left by $50 when the GigaFactory is running.

          • Jacob

            The Gigafactory’s entire output could be dedicated to Powerwalls given the demand for them.

            Looking forward to Gigafactory 2.0.

          • Tasikat

            If you add the cost of service, the the Leaf will have a significant advantage over the Volt or a hybrid.

            The new 2017 model 60 kWh Leaf will have 300 km range.

        • Kevin McKinney

          There’s inherent complexity to any hybrid system, in that you have one more power/drive system than you would with an all-electric design.

          That’s not to say that hybrids can’t make sense in some situations–diesel-electric hybrid locomotives have been a huge success for years–but all-electric has the advantage (in principle, at least) in terms of simplicity–which can often be reflected in issues like part count, expense to build and to maintain, and even reliability.

        • Tasikat

          wrong – in the next 2 years, battery EVs will become cheaper than hybrids, because they don’t need 2 engines, just 1. Cost of batteries has dropped dramatically. A 150 kWh ferry size battery can be purchased for only $30,000.

      • Offgridman

        Norway has been building hybrid freight haulers and offshore turbine installation ships for about twenty years now. (diesel generators powering electric shaft drives) There was a piece on here this past winter about it.
        Going all electric with this ferry could be a sign that batteries are getting cheap enough to make them economic.

    • Jacob

      There are many polluted poor nations where the local authorities may limit the number of licences given to non-hybrid ferries.

      This Ampere travels 6km.

      • Michael G

        Good to hear. Which countries are you referring to?

        • Jacob

          Well the city of Beijing has decided to replace coal power stations with LNG power stations to cut pollution.

          Other polluted places are Bangkok, Egypt, South Asia, and sometimes Singapore.

          Not that Singapore is poor.

          • Michael G

            There are certainly no shortage of polluted poor places but you were referring to hybrid ferries. Does Beijing have ferries and are they switching to hybrids?

            I read up on Thailand’s pollution problems and deforestation and it looks like a nightmare. Are you aware of any ferries in Bangkok that are switching to electric hybrid?

            “The air quality in downtown Cairo is more than 10 to 100 times of acceptable world standards” from Wikipedia. Has there been any effort there to switch to hybrid ferries?

            Any citations of recent efforts in those areas you mention regarding hybrid ferries or are you just hoping the governments there will be more environmentally conscious than those of say, Canada and Australia?

          • Jacob

            Your comments are like saying “the only rockets transporting people to and from the ISS are Soviet rockets, is the West going to make such capable rockets?”

            They will eventually.

          • Michael G

            We were discussing electric or hybrid ferries. And now you are talking about Soviet Rockets.

            Did I ever say, suggest, imply, or hint that I doubted there would be cost-effective electric ferries at some day in the future?

            I did wonder if they were available now, and you apparently agree that they probably aren’t right now.

            Since I agree eventually there will be electric ferries, then we are in perfect agreement about everything here. How nice!

            I think you were looking for a fight with someone who doubts they will ever happen, but that wouldn’t be me.

      • Tasikat

        1- this is not a hybrid

        2- typical western thinking. poor countries cannot care for the environment because that costs a lot of extra money and they are poor. doh

  • heinbloed

    More about electric ferries here:


    The Norled ferry is found at the bottom of the page.

    • Michael G

      Thanks for the link! Highly recommended! All very interesting including a hybrid diesel-battery ferry with a 38% fuel reduction.

      These are all great products. If they are more economical than the traditional diesel ferry then this is a tremendous opportunity. I have no problem with paying more for a cleaner environment, but not everyone is so disposed. If they satisfy the bean counters as a better alternative to diesel then we can see the promised land.

      • Will E

        I have no problem with paying more. ,
        electric and renew is cheaper, saves money and makes money.
        understand you pay less for a cleaner environment.

        • Michael G

          As I said, I also have no problem paying more for a cleaner environment, but not every purchasing manager is like us.

          • heinbloed

            The purchasing managers around the world seem to have no problem with electricity, Canada, Scotland, Germany etc.:


            For a quick look check Amsterdam next week(23rd-25th of June):


            This new hybrid ferry in Scotland is marked for £ 12 million:


          • Michael G

            None of those links (I went to all 3) provide any idea of total overall costs so it is impossible to tell if these are govt. subsidized prototypes, engineering proof of concepts, or actually cost-effective mass production competitive products vs. diesel. I just wondered if they are cost-effective yet over the life of the product. The fact I can’t get an answer suggests not.

            My simple question is whether these are cost effective right now. Asking that question is *NOT* the same as saying they will never be, or that I’m against subsidizing development, or that it isn’t worth it in the log run to pay a little more for green products.

            Don’t read in what I didn’t say.

  • heinbloed

    This ferry – and the electric propulsion as such – is really a great step forward.

    The only thing I don’t like about boat journeys is the smell of sooth and diesel.

    How is the take-up, are there additional passenger numbers?

    • RobS

      These boats are simply part of the Norwegian road system, save perhaps a few techo tourists choosing this route to see the vessel largely the passenger numbers are entirely determined by the regular road traffic.

  • Martin

    Question: does the ferry have regen power as well, when it slows down and goes into reverse are the batteries being charged? does not mention that in the article.
    This type of ferry could be used in a number of places around the world .:))

    • heinbloed

      You’re joking …:)

      The propellers are used to break the boat’s speed when switching them in reverse.That costs energy, no energy can be saved due to technical fundamentals.

      • DoRightThing

        A propeller could generate some power during coasting, but wouldn’t offer enough meaningful resistance to slow down in the time required, ie, just before docking.

        However, a piezoelectric bumper, long hydraulic buffer or shaped dock acting like a piston to pump displaced water could collect some energy during a brief interaction with the dock, but the sudden deceleration might be a bit uncomfortable!
        Adding solar panels would probably be quite beneficial too.

      • RobS

        And the propellers are connected to an electric motor which when providing resistance rather than propulsion by definition becomes a generator, sailing yachts with electric motors can use the drag on the prop to turn their electric motors into water generators. I think the main issue would be the amount of power it would add given the slow speed and relatively light weight of the vessel would be insufficient to make the added complexity of the electronics needed to send charge back to the batteries justified. But fundamentally an electric motor creating drag absolutely can regenerate power.

        • Ronald Brakels

          If the screw can pivot 180 degrees that should let it generate more electricity. The Captain could give the order, “Screw around!” and get a charge out of it.

          • heinbloed

            The mates would be to glad …:)

          • RobS

            You can reverse the screw and put it into “forward” or you can simply use a standard non azimuthing drive shaft and place the prop in reverse, both has exactly the same effect, providing electromechanical resistance in the opposite direction to the momentum of the vessel which bleeds off speed and reclaims it as generated electrical power. You don’t have to use an azimuthing pod drive to achieve that but you can.

        • heinbloed

          You don’t understand:
          the propellers MUST be turned on and pushing at all times to keep the boat safe and sturdy, allowing cars and passengers boarding and embarking.
          The propellers are pushing the boat towards the pier, waves, currents and by-passing vessels’ forces have to be compensated.

          Maybe at night time when the batteries are recharged and the vessel is fixed to the piers….. but note that is serving an ocean, not a river.

          • RobS

            I understand perfectly, I have sailed a vessel with electric motors that when under sail the electric motors become towed hydro generators, you achieved this by putting the electric motors into reverse which bled off 1-2 knots of sailing speed and turned the motors into spinning generators. No, the prop does not HAVE to be turning and providing forward force at all times, if that was the case then the ferry would never be able to slow down or come to a stop as slowing a vessel is by definition the application of more drag than forward propulsion. My point is that when an electrically driven vessel uses its motors to slow forward motion, most commonly when being pushed forward by other means ie sails, then it’s electric motors become generators, however as I said in this scenario the potentially reclaimable energy is so minimal as to hardly make it worth it.

          • heinbloed

            We’re talking about a ferry,Rob S.
            Go to the harbor and watch one switching off the propeller whilst boarding/embarking procedures.
            And report it to the authorities, this could safe lives.

          • RobS

            Go to the harbour and report one that doesn’t slow down as it is approaching the wharf and you will most certainly save lives, it is in the slowing down where technically it is possible to do some regen. Regardless of whether a ferry moors with warps or powers up its engines to hold it against the wharf ALL ferries slow down on approaching a wharf, with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of mass travelling at 8-10 knots the damage if they did not would be catastrophic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think this is much about little.

            Any drifting toward the dock prior to engines/motors being reversed in order to stop the vessel will be brief.

          • RobS

            Exactly and when an electric motor applies reverse thrust it generates power, the stators have to create magnetic drag on the rotor which reverses the magnetic field and induces a current. This comes down to the fact that there is no difference between an electric motor and a generator other than whether the rotor is spinning because electricity is being applied or electricity is being produced because some force is spinning the rotor, in the case the momentum of thousands of tons of ferry and occupants moving at ten knots.

      • Tasikat

        A bit of energy can be captured when slowing down the vessel. But it will be a tiny amount and not worth it. Unlike cars that go uphill and downhill, the last time I checked, water stays level (unless a gravitational wave hits it).

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Good intentions…

      • Martin

        Yes I thought it was a simple question, did not expect such a discussion.
        I do not know much about boats/shipping.

        • Martin

          I live in BC, Canada, we have lots of ferries, all kinds including reaction ferries ( they do not use power but the water floe of the river).

          • Tasikat

            You mean the never have to go upriver? lol

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