Long-Range Electric Ferry Completes First Year in Operation

The electric ferry Ellen (Erki Christensen / CC BY 4.0)

Published Jul 26, 2020 4:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Wider adoption of electric shipping and a drastic cut in carbon emissions may be round the corner with the Danish electric ferry Ellen successfully completing her first year of operations. Launched in August 2019, the electric ferry has been making regular 40 kilometer return-trips between two Danish Baltic Sea islands.

Carbon emissions and pollution have been a big challenge for the shipping industry. While there has already been a shift towards using hybrid diesel-electric engines in ships, Ellen is powered by a fully-electric drivetrain. If powered by 100 percent renewable electricity, Ellen would reduce carbon emissions by 2,250 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Although that’s a drop in the ocean – maritime transport is currently responsible for 900 million tonnes of CO2 a year – it is an important milestone.

Reports suggest that Ellen has an energy efficiency rating of 85 percent – almost twice that of diesel-powered craft. Her development was partially funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research programme, which provides investment for green projects.

Decarbonizing the shipping sector is expected to cost around $1 trillion. Concerted efforts and incentives from national and state governments is necessary to ensure switching to green sources of power so that environment doesn’t become one of the biggest casualties of COVID-19. 

Multiple public-private efforts are now under way to shape the future of a low-carbon maritime industry, and the ferry Ellen isn't the only Danish project in this vein. The Climate Partnership for a Blue Denmark, representing Denmark’s shipping industry, has developed a plan as part of the nation’s overall effort to address climate change and achieve carbon neutrality. Denmark's shipping industry is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050, without the use of climate compensation. Leading Danish shipping firm Maersk is targeting beginning commercial operation for its first ocean-going zero-emission vessel by 2030.