Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wireless Charging Comes to the Electrically Powered Vessel Sector

Successful Tests on Hybrid Drive Short Sea Ferry
Shipping News Feature
NORWAY – Just as the urban cycle of small delivery vans is driving the technology for electric road vehicles it seems the short sea schedules of coastal ferries is pushing hybrid vessel development on a similar path. Finnish headquartered technology group Wärtsilä says it has successfully tested its automatic wireless induction charging system on just such a vessel. This is the first commercial ferry in the world operating with high power wireless charging capability for its batteries, and the successful project represents a notable breakthrough in the evolution of plug-in electrically operated vessels.

Wireless charging eliminates the cable connection between the vessel and shore, thereby securing and facilitating safe connections and disconnections. It also reduces maintenance since wear and tear to physical connection lines is eliminated. The integrated Wärtsilä system is based on inductive power transfer and is capable of transferring more than a MW of electrical energy and the successful tests were undertaken on the 85 metre long RoRo passenger ferry MF Folgefonn in Norwegian waters in the past month.

Similar to the recharging plates built into the roadway of car parking spaces which are currently testing, and fulfilling the well-publicised dream of Nikola Tesla of power ‘passing through the air’, the Wärtsilä system is designed to maintain efficient power transfer at distances of 50 centimetres between the two respective charging plates built into the side of the vessel and the quay. The company claims no other wireless charging system is as powerful, or capable of maintaining the transfer of energy at such a distance. Ingve Sørfonn, Senior Technical Officer E&A, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions explains:

"During recent years, wireless charging has been introduced for cars, buses and trains. We have now made this possible for marine vessels. The main benefits for customers are up to 20% more utilisation of the available charging time, increased operational safety, and greater system reliability. There is an ongoing trend to equip coastal ferries with battery powered and hybrid propulsion since they are particularly affected by environmental regulatory demands. Wireless charging will, therefore, create considerable value for operators of hybrid ferries."

This latest project on the Folgefonn which is owned by Norled, a Norwegian group with an extensive fleet of ferries, has been partly financed by Innovation Norway, a Norwegian funding institution, and Cato Esperø, Sales Director, Wärtsilä Norway says his company is continuing to experiment with the system, commenting:

"For Wärtsilä, this wireless charging revolution focuses on coastal ferries, a segment of the transportation industry that is well-suited to the technology because of short stop-and-go schedules. The wireless charger is an innovative and value adding new part of our hybrid solutions offering, which we shall continue to develop further in line with the needs of our customers.”