Innovative charging system allows electric ferries in the Netherlands

Able to carry up to 400 passengers, 20 cars or four trucks, the first electric ferry started sailing in August last year (Photograph courtesy of ABB)
Passengers crossing Amsterdam’s North Sea Canal will have a quieter, cleaner voyage thanks to a new fleet of five electric ferries that recharge in three minutes after each 20-minute round trip, saving 800,000 litres of diesel a year.

The move to replace the existing diesel-powered fleet dating back to the 1930s is made possible by automated charging stations built by Bam Infra Rail and equipped with advanced power conversion modules from ABB.

Able to carry up to 400 passengers, 20 cars or four trucks, the first electric ferry started sailing in August last year. Moveable partitions can adjust the space needed by vehicles versus pedestrians.

Fully deployed by 2023, the new fleet – procured by the city’s public transport company, Gemeentelijk vervoerbedrijf (GVB) – will ply three routes on the canal 24 hours a day which, together, carry some 350,000 vehicles over the water a year.

ABB’s equipment converts the alternating current grid voltage to a stable, direct current supply to quickly charge the ferries’ 680kWh battery packs, with power conversion based on integrated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology. This ensures a smooth DC output with minimal grid distortion by reacting to network events and compensating for voltage drops.

The ferries will normally run on battery power but can switch to a generator when wind rises to force 8.

“The fast-charging solution delivered by Bam and ABB is fully automated and can easily be integrated into the ferry’s timetable. Electric operation means there are no particulates or carbon dioxide emissions. When all five electric ferries are in service and the old diesel vessels are retired, we will save 800,000 liters of diesel per year, eliminating over 2,400 tonnes of carbon emissions,” said Alain Asin, project manager at GVB.

“ABB has a well-established track record in delivering stable and reliable shore to ship power for a wide range of vessels,” said Marcel Zevenbergen of ABB System Drives. “A key factor in this success is that we subject our supply modules to extensive in-house and external testing to ensure reliable operation over a long lifetime.”

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