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Electric shipping from Norrland to southern Sweden possible

03 February 2023

It is possible in summer, but in winter the ice prevents it. A pre-study from Lighthouse and the Swedish Transport Administration has taken the first steps in developing a concept for green electrified shipping between Skellefteå and Södertälje.

Although the pace of development for the electrification of shipping is high, it has not progressed as far as road transports. Because large installations of batteries are required, there are so far only electric ships that run shorter routes, primarily car ferries and passenger ships. In Sweden, for example, the route Helsingborg-Helsingör is operated with an entirely battery-powered ship, while longer routes such as Stena's traffic between Gothenburg and Fredrikshamn require a hybrid solution. Between Skellefteå and Södertälje it is ten times longer - 560 miles!

- I thought it was a real challenge at first, says Sara Rogersson, researcher at Rise Maritime (formerly SSPA) who led the work on the pre-study Hållbara försörjningskedjor med eldriven sjöfart mellan Norrland till Södertälje.

But this was exactly what the two cargo stakeholders participating in the study wanted to investigate. The vehicle manufacturer Scania has its base in Södertälje and needs components from Northvolt, which manufactures battery cells in Skellefteå. Was it possible to run entirely on green electricity with shipping between cities?

- Together with the cargo stakeholders, we first discussed capacity and speed needs. Then we looked at technical solutions and design options and came up with a ship concept. We agreed that the ship should be able to transport around 60 40-feet containers and that departures from Skellefteå should take place once a week all year round. This means that you can have a relatively low average speed, which makes electrification possible even if the distance is long. The ship needs to be at the quay for 12 hours to load and unload. This gives enough time to charge the batteries.

In summer this could work, but hardly over winter. Going through ice requires a lot more battery capacity.

- Therefore, the ship needed to be a hybrid solution with an engine that runs on a climate-smart fuel to cope with the ice, says Sara Rogersson.

The result of the pre-study has led to the formation of a consortium to highlight several necessary aspects in the further development towards a functioning ship concept. The research is being taken further in the project ELINORR (Electrified sea transport of goods Norrland – Södertälje) which has received funding from Triple F. Project start is in February 2023.

Footnote. The pre-study Hållbara försörjningskedjor med eldriven sjöfart mellan Norrland till Södertälje has been written by Sara Rogerson, Tobias Olsson and Staffan Sjöling at SSPA, as well as Andreas Bach at RISE in collaboration with Fredrik Wrede, Anders Olsson and Axel Brundin at Northvolt and Patrik Johansson at Scania and Robin Hanson at Chalmers.

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