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Electric fast-ferry concept could revolutionize coastal transportation

Hydro is collaborating in a project in Norway that is developing the world’s first fully electrical passenger ferry, with aluminium playing a central role.

Illustration of aluminium electric ferry

The ferry is part of a European Union-funded program – The TrAM Project (Transport Advanced and Modular) – to make shipbuilding more efficient, and Hydro is part of the partnership including industry, government and research organizations. 

Today, ships are built in various custom designs, even though they serve similar functions. By taking a modular approach – like car makers do with common platforms for many models – costs in engineering and production would be slashed. 

Standardization allows us to use the same components and designs, which can be used in various applications,” says Thomas Svendsen, Market Manager in Hydro Extruded Solutions’ Marine & Offshore business 

More flexibility

This lowers the cost of designing and engineering a ship, dealing with sub-contractors, and constructing the vessel. But it is also makes shipbuilding more flexible, meaning you can have standard bow and stern modules, and simply add modules in the middle for more passenger capacity,” Svendsen says. 

One ferry, to be built by Fjellstrand AS, near Bergen as part of the TrAM project, is destined for service in the Stavanger region. It will be operated by the Rogaland County Council and Kolumbus, the regional transportation company. Two other ferries may be built for London and Belgium under the EU project. 

Shipyard work is slated for 2021-2022, and the ferry is expected to be in operation in 2022-2023. 

One ferry can contain 25-30 tonnes of aluminium. For Hydro, the project would include extrusions, panels, friction-stir welding, robotic welding, bending larger panels, optimizing CAD (computer-aided design) services and modular design. 

It is also an opportunity for Hydro to lead the development of a new industry standard, as well as using our low-carbon aluminium extrusion ingot and sheet ingot products like Hydro CIRCAL and Hydro REDUXA, which improve the environmental performance even further. 

Svendsen says, “The new system will lower costs, while strengthening our position in the value chain.” 

Heavy batteries, light aluminium

The benefits of an all-aluminium, electrical battery-driven ferry are many. Chief among them is CO2 emissions. Traditional ferries are powered by diesel engines, leading to unwanted pollution, especially when in port. The TrAM ferry has no diesel generator on board, and will charge batteries while in Stavanger port.  

Kolumbus operates around 10 vessels on fast-ferry routes. The CO2 emissions from these vessels equal the emissions from all 450 buses that operate Kolumbus’ bus routes in Rogaland, according the TrAM Project, illustrating the importance of zero-emission technology for fast ferries. 

Focus on environmental performance was also a driver for aluminium as a building material for the ship. (That Norway uses hydropower for electricity generation makes this solution even better in environmental performance.) 

Batteries are heavy, and weight is a challenge when considering speed on water. The need to cut weight is essential, which means using light aluminium in the structure is key to cutting the overall weight significantly. In addition, aluminium is highly corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for marine applications. 

About

The TrAM ferry 

  • Capacity: about 150 passengers, 20 bicycles 
  • Fully electrical battery-driven 
  • Speed: 23 knots service speed 
  • When in operation, will have 11 stops from Stavanger city center  

TrAM project partners 

  • Rogaland County Council (Norway) 
  • Maritime Clean Tech (Norway) 
  • Apply Leirvik (Norway) 
  • National Technical University of Athens (Greece) 
  • Fraunhofer Society (Germany) 
  • University of Strathclyde (UK) 
  • Hamburgische Schiffbau-Versuckanstalt (Germany) 
  • Wärtsilä Netherlands B.V. (Netherlands) 
  • Fjellstrand AS (Norway) 
  • Servogear  
  • Collins River – MBNA Thames Clippers (UK)  
  • Waterwegen en Zeekanaal (Belgium) 
  • Hydro (Norway) 
Thomas Svendsen

Thomas Svendsen

Market Manager, Marine & Offshore

einar stabell

Einar Stabell

Communication Manager, Global Media