Wireless charging demo marks breakthrough in electric ferry tech

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 — Wärtsilä has successfully tested its automatic wireless induction charging system on a hybrid powered coastal ferry.

The tests were carried out on the 85 m long MF Folgefonn in Norwegian waters during the end of August / early September. Owned by Norled, one of Norway's largest ferry operators, the vessel is the world's first commercial ferry to operate with high power wireless charging capability for its batteries.

Successful testing of the wireless charging technology marks a breakthrough in the evolution of plug-in electrically operated vessels.

Wärtsilä says the tests are "a notable breakthrough in the evolution of plug-in electrically operated vessels" (But is a wirelessly charged vessel still a plug-in?).

Wireless charging eliminates the cable connection between the vessel and shore, thereby securing and facilitating safe connections and disconnections. It also reduces maintenance as wear and tear onphysical 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. It is designed to maintain efficient power transfer at distances of 50 cm between the two charging plates built into the side of the vessel and the quay.

Wärtsilä say that no other wireless charging system is as powerful, or capable of maintaining the transfer of energy at such a distance.

"During recent years, wireless charging has been introduced for cars, buses and trains," says Ingve Sørfonn, Senior Technical Officer E&A, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions. "We have now made this possible for marine vessels. The main benefits for customers are up to 20 percent more utilization 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"

"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," says Cato Esperø, Sales Director, Wärtsilä Norway. "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

The project has been partly funded by Innovation Norway, a Norwegian funding institution.

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