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No extra cost to switch to electric ferries

07 May 2020

The financial costs does not seem to be the problem when electric ferries are to be brought into public transport. On the contrary, there may be money to save. This according to a new pre-study from Lighthouse made within the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Sustainable Shipping.

"How should electrified public transport on water be financed?" That was pretty much the entrance question that the researchers from the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute and KTH had when they started work on the pre-study Fossil-free public transport on water.

"We had to let go of that pretty quickly", Karl Jivén, a researcher at the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute who led the work on the pre-study, says

The project included financial calculations for the electric hybrid ferry Elvy, which was put into operation last year for shuttle services across Göta Älv in Gothenburg. The result showed that the choice of propulsion and fuel is not something that significantly affects the total cost. Instead, the large costs are in areas such as the purchase of vessels and on the personnel side.

“We have looked at public transport at shorter distances. Electrifying ferries that go longer distances, which require higher speed and more energy, well, that could be even more profitable as the energy costs are more dominant.”

But there are also obstacles, especially regarding charging technology and infrastructure.

“Getting infrastructure and loading on quays is often difficult. If you think of river traffic in Gothenburg, it is fairly easy to solve, but when it comes to the islands in the archipelago electrical capacity can be a limiting factor.”

Charging technology is a problem in itself. It needs to be faster. Today, for example, Elvy is charged overnight and then manages to run for half a day on electricity before having to switch to conventional fuel. The question of who is responsible for getting a charging infrastructure that works makes it even more complicated. In Gothenburg, for example, Västtrafik procures traffic, Styrsöbolaget operates the vessels, while other parties are responsible for quays, building permits and more.

“There is a complexity in this that requires collaboration on many different levels. No stakeholder can solve the question alone”, Karl Jivén says.

Read the report Fossilfri kollektivtrafik på vatten

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