An 85kW electric motor with Tesla 2nd life batteries for sightseeing boat Sylvia to take visitors along the route travelled by the famous Swedish warship Vasa.
Tour company EcoSightseeing and the concept of the Sylvia were launched in 2019 after a chance meeting on a Swedish commuter ferry. Skipper Elias Nilsson started telling a passenger, Erling Matz, about his dream of a boat tour that would follow the route of the Vasa and relate the saga of the ship for visitors along the way. The Vasa was setting off for combat in Poland in 1628, but started floundering on her maiden voyage and sank in Stockholm harbour less than 1500 metres – 1 mile – from dock.
Little did he know that Erling was so interested because he is a naval history expert and former information manager at the city’s Vasa Museum, one of Sweden’s most popular attractions, with 1.5 million visitors each year. He loved Nilsson’s concept and so they began to pursue the dream of EcoSightseeing Tours.
The ‘Eco’ part of the name refers to their goal of making the trip zero emission. While Sweden is a world leader in electric boats – think Candela, X Shore, GreenStar Marine and more – Nillson says he wanted to “accelerate the development of sustainable shipping in close urban waters. In Stockholm there has been talk of converting commercial vessels for many years. Talk and talk but not much has happened.”
After finding the Sylvia and deciding she was just right for duties as the tour boat as well as for charter events, the company was launched in June of 2019 with very good reviews. The Vasa Tour has racked up a TripAdvisor score of 5 stars and 138 reviews and is recommended by 98% of travellers.
Unfortunately, EcoSightseeing wasn’t able to get an electric propulsion system for 2019 and was stuck with Sylvia’s existing diesel motor. Now that is being corrected. A call went out to fellow Stockholm company El & Marintechnik, who consult on all aspects of marine electrification.
Tesla 2nd life batteries decided as the solution
Together they decided that the best solution, especially for a one year old company like EcoSightseeing that needed to be fiscally responsible, was to look at second life batteries – batteries that may not have the full charging and power capabilities to run an EV, but have more than enough for other applications.
They’re less expensive than new batteries of course, but there are also the environmental benefits of re-using them rather than recycling them. One company that reconditions and sells the modules – Second Life EV Batteries in the UK – says “it’s not only a good business decision, but also one that can reduce waste, and ensure that those batteries are recycled properly and efficiently at the end of their EV lifespan.”
This isn’t the first time Plugboats has written about this energy storage option. In Paris, batteries taken from Renault electric vehicles will power a private cruise boat, and this DIY motor with Tesla 2nd life batteries gets a small RIB zipping along at over 45 knots (50 mph / 80 kmh).
For the Sylvia, modules from two Tesla Model S battery packs have been re-arranged into one 190 kWh battery pack that can drive the 85kW motor for up to 14 hours of cruising between charges. The cells are housed in specially designed, waterproof and gas-tight aluminum containers under the boat’s bench seats. The passengers can look forward to hearing the story of the Vasa without the noise and rumblings of a diesel motor.
Meeting of the past and future of Stockholm
The Vasa is an intriguing story. The warship was commissioned by Sweden’s King Gustuvas Adolphus and set off in 1628 to meet up with him as he and his troops fought in Poland. But erratic winds caught her sails as she tried to navigate the Stockholm harbour and hundreds of citizens saw her sink to the bottom.
The technical ability to raise the Vasa didn’t exist at the time, so there she lay for 333 years until 1961, when the wreck was located in a busy shipping lane. When the ship was salvaged it had a remarkably intact hull and it was decided to show off this bit of Swedish history and house it in a temporary museum. In 1988 the popular Vasa Museum was opened as a permanent home.
One of the reasons the Vasa hull was so well preserved was the heavily polluted waters of the Stockholm harbour. Until recent years they were so highly toxic that even the toughest microorganisms that break down wood had difficulty surviving.
It’s an odd environmental twist that Sylvia, the boat that takes passengers along the Vasa’s route, is one with a mission to help clean up our planet and EcoSightseeing founder Elias Nilsson was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s rallying cry that “No one is to small to make a difference”.