Oranje Nassau, a Berlin sightseeing boat and watertaxi, has ditched the diesel and now has an electric Torqeedo Deep Blue system providing her passengers a silent, smooth, emission and fume-free outing along the Spree River and other urban waterways.
The 20-meter, 55-passenger vessel with wraparound windows and transparent roof is powered by a Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i electric drive and three Deep Blue batteries with 120 kWh capacity. The Deep Blue 50i is rated at continuous power of 55kW and peak power of 66 Peak, using 360V. The system enables the Oranje Nassau to operate for a full 8 hours and recharge overnight at the dock with a shorepower connection.
Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i charges at night
Aside from passengers loving the new ride, electrification also contributes to Berlin’s efforts to reduce air pollution from the fossil fuel motors of both cars and boats.
The German capital has eleven navigable waterways totaling 200 kilometers in length, including the Spree and Havel rivers and the famous Landwehr Canal. There are more than 40 companies active on the city’s urban waters, generating a turnover of 200 million Euros a year and providing many jobs.
According to the Berlin Senate Administration, around ten percent of all particle emissions from traffic originate from the vessels that ply the city’s waterways – inflicting the same harm to air quality and human health as 120,000 cars.
Berlin has invested heavily in electromobility in recent years, with hybrid and electric buses, hybrid cabs and a noticeable upswing in the number of electric cars, bikes and scooters in the city. The boat traffic on the Spree River – the city’s oldest traffic route – has lagged behind other transportation modes in joining the switch to electric. Until now.
Plans for more electric conversions
The Oranje Nassau had been operating on diesel since its launch in the mid 1990s. Not only are there environmental and passenger enjoyment issues, but that adds up to more than two decades of paying for fuel every single day.
André Siebach,, Managing director of Berliner Wassertaxi, is so pleased with the new system that he is already making plans to convert the other two tour boats in the fleet with the same Torqeedo Deep Blue propulsion package. He sees it as a smart business decision, yielding much lower operating and maintenance costs. “Besides, we wanted to send a statement,” he said. “We wanted to show it was possible.”
Siebach pointed out that the comparatively light and streamlined canal boats are perfect candidates for conversion to electromobility and Axel Büchling, Torqeedo’s project sales manager, agreed. “Berlin’s urban ferries travel relatively short distances and require a limited amount of propulsion energy per day. We know this is an ideal situation for an electric system from our experience installing electric, solar and hybrid systems on scores of inland and coastal craft in other metropolitan areas around the globe.”
The new propulsion system not only has benefits for the climate and Berliner Wassertaxi’s bottom line but also improves life for the crew, passengers, and local residents.
“In the past, you got really dirty when you were working,” said Stephanie Merkel, the vessel’s skipper. She smiled. “And now I don’t go home in the evening with my head throbbing.” Passengers are also impressed. A visitor from Vienna, who rode the electric boat on one of its first tours, commented: “You can absolutely tell the difference. Berlin has something of Venice: the silence, the gliding along.”
“We can achieve a long-term improvement in the climate on our waterways,” commented Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey. “Berlin wants to be a pioneer here.”
When Berliner Wassertaxi first looked into going electric, they contacted a number of companies. “We were looking for a single supplier who could reliably deliver motors, batteries, and energy management systems for high-voltage systems” said Siebach. “And that’s exactly what we got from Torqeedo. They offered to supply a complete system with industrial quality components, system integration, and project management.”
“It was nice to deal with the same people from the first concept sketch to installation and sea trials,” Siebach said. “I had the phone numbers of all the important contacts and could actually reach them at any time.”