Ærø EnergyLab (Municipality of Ærø)

With the Project:
The E-ferry Ellen

In August 2019, Ærø Municipality started operating the fully electric E-ferry 'Ellen' which was designed and built locally. Ellen has shown a path to achieving emission-free sailing even on longer regional routes. Ellen sails 40 kilometers between charges, 7 times longer than any other electric ferry in the world when operations began, and Ellen is still leading on distance. The evaluation report was published in 2020. It shows that emissions from the route have been reduced by 2,520 tons of CO2 per year (besides other GHGs, and half a ton of particles), while maintaining a high service level. The evaluation report has been made public, in order to inspire and spread awareness and knowledge, and representatives from the project have spoken at numerous high profile maritime conferences to disseminate the results and findings. In general, the island of Ærø produces between 125 % and 140 % of its electricity consumption through wind, thus Ellen can sail truly emission-free.


The Municipality of Ærø has set very ambitious goals for itself in relation to reducing CO2 and other GHG emissions. The municipality wants to become emission-neutral by 2025 and completely fossil fuel free by 2030. This is stipulated in the municipality's 'Vision Plan'. As an island community with 6,000 inhabitants, the island of Ærø is highly dependent on municipality-operated ferry routes to the mainland, and the ferries constitute the biggest challenge in relation to GHG emissions. One of these four ferries in operation was replaced with a revolutionary, fully electric ferry.


The ferries help the island avoid de-population because they allow people to live a fairly normal un-secluded life, also professionally. However, the ferries are problematic in relation to GHGs - maritime traffic in general is a source of significant GHG emissions and particle pollution of watershed, and real change is necessary in the industry as a whole. In 2015, a group of local maritime experts decided to sketch plans for what would be a revolutionary, fully electric ferry which would need to achieve an unprecedented distance between battery charges. In cooperation with the municipality and other partners, the project was carried out and by 2019, the ferry was ready for operation. The E-ferry is now a blue print for achieving the goals stipulated in the Vision Plan, goals that seemed almost impossible before.


The vast majority of electric vessels in commercial operation also rely on fossil fuel generators or diesel backup systems. E-ferry Ellen sails without a drop of fossil fuel onboard and has achieved redundancy (in case of system failure) by keeping the two battery rooms completely electrically separate. This means that one battery room is connected to one main engine and thruster, the other battery room is connected to the other main engine and thruster. If something happens, the ship can still return home using the other system. In addition, a safety system was implemented which alleviates any worries one might have about sailing with batteries. For instance, a special non-toxic foam was developed that both effectively cools batteries (preventing one battery from affecting others) and quenches fire.



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