1st UK electric ferry makes a splash in Plymouth

The first UK electric ferry set off October 13 to start a series of trials in preparation to carry paying passengers in April 2021.

The boat – named e-Voyager – is a refit and conversion with design and development by a consortium that includes Plymouth Boat Trips and Voyager Marine, in partnership with the University of Plymouth, the University of Exeter, Teignbridge Propellers and EVParts UK. Local MP Sheryll Murray oversaw the naming and launching ceremony.

The e-Voyager is the first electric boat project from Voyager Marine with the idea that the boat builder and partners will use the experience and knowledge to offer a complete package of design, installation and maintenance of sea going electric vessels.

UK electric ferry running from Plymouth to Cremyll

The electric propulsion system, replacing an old 60HP diesel engine, was developed by EVParts UK and uses a 400V motor that directly drives the propeller shaft at up to 1500 RPM. A repurposed Nissan Leaf battery provides energy storage.

UK electric ferry motor sitting in hull of e-VoyagerThe team worked closely with Teignbridge Propellers in designing a propeller to optimize electricity usage. Using a doppler velocity log, a kind of a sonar that precisely measures a boat’s speed in the water, they  analyzed the load and timing requirements of the ferry’s route, a ten minute ride from Plymouth harbour, across the River Tamar to the town of Cremyll on the Devon side.

Plymouth City Council is set to install three 22kWh chargers on the port’s Barbican Landing Stage, permitting a full charge time of around three hours. The vessel will be charged overnight when berthing, providing enough power to run for a full day and complete its journey requirements on a single charge. If required, the boat will plug in and recharge between runs as passengers embark.

Now that the e-Voyager is completed and operating, the Maritime Coastguard Agency will be working with the Impact Lab of the University of Plymouth to collect data about the air, water and noise impact of the boat to demonstrate the environmental benefits for Plymouth Sound.

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More UK electric ferries in the works

Consortium member Plymouth Boat Trips has a full range of fishing, ferry and cruise services operating in Plymouth Sound and is looking at the results of these trials to scale up the propulsion systems with the intent of ditching diesel and converting  boats of up to 22 metres.

The e-Voyager UK electric ferry project is funded through the £1.4M Clean Maritime Call: a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport (DfT), launched to support the UK’s goal of zero emission shipping.

Dr Richard Pemberton, Lecturer in Mechanical and Marine Engineering Design at the University of Plymouth said “The University firmly believes that the work conducted on e-Voyager will pave the way for larger-scale innovation towards meeting targets of a 50% reduction in emissions from the maritime sector by 2050.

The plan is for the e-Voyager to go into paid service in April of 2021, which may be a busy time for electric ferries in the United Kingdom. Plans were announced in 2019 for a battery powered ferry running between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf on the Thames in east London and the Thames Clipper company is also looking at electric boats for their tourist cruises.

Elsewhere on the Thames, the worlds first electric hybrid pilot boat is guiding large ships through one of the world’s trickiest waterways – the Thames River from Gravesend to Tower Bridge.

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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