“Ampere”: Norway’s first modern electric ferry has already traveled a distance equal to three times around the world. This ferry alone saves a million litres of diesel a year. Photo: Paal Kvamme

A revolution in the fjords

Zero emission technology is making Norwegian fjords even more beautiful.

Noisy, polluting ferries with combustion engines could soon be a thing of the past-time. In Norway, zero emission ferries are leading the way towards a better future - and save money on the way.

Half the running costs

-60 percent of Norwegian ferry routes can be converted to electric power. That means less noise and odour, and only half of the running expenses. Because Norwegian electricity is based on clean hydropower, there will be zero CO2 emissions from the ferries, says Sigvald Breivik.

He is the chief technical officer at Norled, the company that started to operate the world´s first large zero emission car ferry in 2015. With a capacity of 120 cars and 360 passengers, “Ampere” runs across the beautiful Sognefjorden, one of the world’s deepest and longest fjords.

- ”Ampere” has already traveled a distance equal to three times around the world, with a 99.7 percent punctuality. On this ferry alone, we save a million litres of diesel a year, says Breivik.


        Cleaner future: - A few years from now, emissions from Norwegian ferries will be cut by 70 percent, says Sigvald Breivik, chief technical officer at Norled.
Photo: Norled


Cutting emissions

In a country blessed with so many fjords and islands, the ferry structure is of crucial importance. Norway has become a world leader in the use of zero emission technology in ferries, partly due to government demands. Breivik says that especially Hordaland county is leading the way.

- Looking only a few years into the future, emissions from Norwegian ferries will be cut by 70 percent, he says.

- More countries are following. Among them Finland, Sweden and United Kingdom, where an electric ferry will run on the Thames, he says.

Better battery technology

Battery technology is rapidly improving. With more efficient batteries, even long distance ferry routes can be operated with zero emission vessels. Breivik says that the biggest challenge in the 2.5 years of running “Ampere”, has been charging the 1000 kWh batteries as efficiently as possible.

- The ferry docks for just ten minutes at a time. It is important to have the best possible charging connectivity between ferry and shore, Breivik says.

To avoid delays, “Ampere” has two different charging setups that work simultaneously: one large plug, and a pantograph - a concept similar to the one used on trains and trams. Clever technology is used to save energy. On traditional ferries, diesel engines are pushing the vessel firmly against the dock to enable passengers and vehicles to embark or exit safely. On “Ampere”, a vacuum system is used to suck the vessel towards the quay while docking.

International suppliers

While Norway is a world leader in zero-emission transportation, the technology needed for the ferries comes from around the world. The aluminium hull was built by the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand. The vacuum system is produced by the Swiss company Cavotec, the batteries come from the Canadian energy company Corvus, and Siemens of Germany has provided the expertise for the electric propulsion. Siemens is in fact one of several large international tech companies who are currently establishing maritime battery production facilities in Norway.

Wireless charging

Sigvald Breivik is looking forward to the next big step - wireless charging. Norled is already testing this technology, which will actually allow the vessel to start charging before it reaches the dock. The amount of energy needed is enormous.

- ”Ampere” uses 2.5 million kWh a year - around the same energy consumption as 100 households, Breivik says.

Just like electric cars, electric ferries have to save as much energy as possible and every detail counts. To save energy on board, Norled considered removing the kiosk, where hungry Norwegians line up to buy their coffee and svele (a popular Norwegian snack). Thankfully, this never happened.

- So far, we have made over 130.000 pieces of svele, and just as much coffee. So even the svele is now being baked in an environmentally friendly way, says Sigvald Breivik.

According to Breivik, 15-20 electric ferries are currently being built by several Norwegian ship owners. Beginning in 2018, the company Fjord1 will operate Norway’s second zero emission ferry: the Anda-Lote route. This way, the Norwegian fjords can stay as beautiful as ever.