Ellen, Denmark’s First Electric Ferry, Passes All Tests With Flying Colors

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Ellen, Denmark’s first all-electric ferry, entered revenue service in September last year. The electric ferry trial was supported by the Horizon 2020 program funded by the European Union, so of course the backers wanted to know if Ellen met all the program criteria. The results are now in and the answer is a resounding yes. After 10 months in service, the electric ferry has met or exceeded all expectations. In addition, it has proven that electric propulsion costs less than diesel power.

An electric ferry is a lot like an electric car. It costs a little more in the beginning but pays for itself with reduced fuel and maintenance costs over its lifetime. Reduced carbon emissions are a welcome bonus as well.

Ellen electric ferry
Image credit: Ærø EnergyLab

Extraordinary Efficiency

The energy efficiency of the total electrical system is as high as 85%, according to a press release. That is more than double the efficiency of a traditional diesel ferry. The most modern diesel ferries are a bit more energy efficient but can’t come close to Ellen’s numbers.

Ellen serves a route that is 22 nautical miles round trip. For the journey, she uses about 1600 kWh of electricity in total. There is a high power charging station located at the terminal in Søby that can recharge the ferry’s battery with up to 4 MW of power — more than enough for Ellen to maintain her sailing schedule.

The Least Expensive Solution

electric ferry ROI
Image credit: Ærø EnergyLab

“Perhaps most important of all for the dissemination of e-technology, pure electricity is simply the cheapest solution now,” says the operator of Ellen.

“Investment costs are still somewhat higher for an electric ferry, but the savings in operation offsets investment costs after 4-8 years, depending on the conditions, technical and regulatory, that apply to the route.

“As the lifespan of a ferry is typically around 30 years, an operator can therefore look forward to significant savings after a few years of operation. Contributing to the startling figures are the declining prices of e-technology, not least the battery prices, which have been declining rapidly in recent years, while the energy density of the batteries has increased steadily.”

Passenger Satisfaction Is High

Just as people in an electric car appreciate the quietness of their journeys, passengers who have traveled aboard Ellen say they are very pleased with their experience. They appreciate the quiet sailing and the absence of diesel exhaust fumes on deck. 45% reported they are extremely satisfied, while 41% said they are very satisfied. No passengers reported any anxiety about being out on the Baltic on a vessel powered solely by electricity.

Carbon Emissions Are Reduced

Assuming all the electricity used to keep Ellen’s batteries charged comes from renewable sources, its operation keeps 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year. The Danish electrical grid uses a lot of green energy, but it also uses electricity from other sources. Based on the norm for the local energy grid, Ellen still manages to eliminate 2,100 tons of carbon emissions each year. There are links to the entire Horizon 2020 report contained in the press release.

Of course, in the cockamamie economic system prevalent in the world today, there is no economic value placed on carbon that never gets pumped into the atmosphere. Leave it to humans to figure out a way to totally ignore the economic impact of something that is slowly but surely killing us all. Homo sapiens? I don’t think so.

Hat Tip: Jesper Berggreen

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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