Which Is the First Electric Ferry?
Find out which is the world's first electric ferry and whether it has been a success in providing an environmentally-friendly solution.
The world’s first electric ferry is the MV Ampere, which transports cars and passengers across the Sognefjord in Vestland County, Norway.
In the rest of the article, we are going to look at the MV Ampere in more detail, including why it was built and whom by, learn about the benefits of electric ferries, and look at whether there is a future for them by briefly examining some other examples.
What Is MV Ampere?
The MV Ampere is a car and passenger ferry in Norway that is powered exclusively by lithium-ion batteries. It travels between the villages of Ytre Oppedal and Lavik in Vestland County, Norway, which are separated by the Sognefjord, famed for being the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. The ferry has a gross tonnage of 1598 and is 260 feet long.
The journey that MV Ampere covers is about 3.5 miles, which it passes in only 20 minutes. It runs every day of the year, making the trip 34 times each day.
The ship is also made of aluminum instead of steel, making it lighter as well as easier to maintain. This light weight also allows the 1,000 kWh capacity batteries to make a number of trips back and forth across the fjord before they need to recharge.
The charging ports at the ferry terminals themselves have batteries installed so that they do not interfere with the homes and businesses in the area by causing blackouts when they pull too much energy too quickly. The power that this energy grid supplies is sourced entirely from hydroelectric dams, making it entirely green from point of generation to point of use.
Why Was MV Ampere Built?
The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Transportation created a competition in 2011 to create a ferry that was environmentally friendly to bridge the gap between the villages of Ytre Oppedal and Lavik, then both in the County of Sogn og Fjordane, which would be merged with Hordaland to form the new Vestland County.
The MV Ampere, then called ZeroCat, was delivered in October of 2014 and demonstrated its ability to make the trip powered only by its batteries. This had multiple other implications as well, including the complete absence of emissions and a dramatic reduction in noise pollution from what would otherwise be loud diesel engines.
As part of the prize for the competition, Norled, the company that is behind the MV Ampere, will have the right to operate the ferry route between Lavik and Ytre Oppedal until 2025.
Which Is the Company Behind MV Ampere?
Norled is a public transport company in Norway that has existed in its current form since the start of 2012 but has operated in the country under other names and as a part of larger companies for longer, notably as Tide Sjø AS for a significant period of time.
Norled operates car and passenger ferries in Western Norway, one of which is the MV Ampere. The oldest ferry they continue to operate, albeit only as a spare, was built in 1964. Their 80-strong fleet consists of ships built between then and throughout the time between, including MV Ampere, which is their first electric ferry but will not be their last.
What Are the Benefits to Electric Ferries?
Although the transition to electric vehicles has been controversial globally, bringing with it a series of both benefits and – at the very least temporarily – drawbacks, electric ferries set up in the way that MV Ampere is represent almost exclusively changes for the positive.
The benefits of electric ferries may seem intuitive, but there are actually more reasons than you think that they are desirable. Let’s look at a few of these broken down.
Fossil fuel prices are extremely volatile, and we have all seen entire national economies and international economic structures brought to their knees when the price of oil spikes, especially when it is sudden, leaving less time for individuals and governments to prepare.
By relying on electricity instead of fossil fuels, the former of which can come from any number of sources, a ferry and its operators are less at the mercy of economic volatility, and after the initial investment, can operate with less cost.
The health effects of burning fossil fuels have been extensively studied, and the results are never positive. Not only does MV Ampere have zero emissions, but the electric grid it charges from sources all of its power from hydroelectric facilities, which themselves have zero emissions. In this way, there is no pollution locally, nor is the pollution passed down to the area that the electricity is generated in.
Ferries, by their nature, frequently link settled areas. Although noise pollution seems like a minor annoyance, having to listen to giant diesel engines rolling in and out through the day every day can limit the quality of life of those that cannot escape it. Electric motors are almost silent by comparison
Fossil fuels are finite, and the rate at which they are naturally restored is an infinitesimal fraction of the rate at which we are using them. When powering ferries with diesel becomes unsustainable, electric power is a great alternative because the electricity itself can be generated in a number of different ways, many of which are independent of fossil fuels.
What Is the Future of Electric Ferries?
Even though the electric ferry industry is only a few years old, it is growing with exceptional speed and will likely continue to do so on account of all the benefits it brings and the fact that a proof of concept was initiated with MV Ampere.
Notable other examples of electric ferries include Bastø Electric, which is powered by three batteries and the biggest electric ferry in the world, and Ika Rere in New Zealand, which introduced the practice to the Southern Hemisphere.
We have learned that the first electric ferry is the MV Ampere in Norway, but more importantly, we have looked at all of the benefits it has brought, meaning it will be far from the last.