Bike across the Baltic Sea on a solar-electric ferry

'Antonia vom Kamp' solar e-ferry, powered by Torqeeedo, viewed sailing from above showing solar PV on roof. (Image credit: Christian Brecheis)
Image credit: Christian Brecheis

This summer, taking your bike across the water to visit and vacation on a popular tourist destination in the Baltic Sea just became easier, cleaner and greener, with the introduction of a brand new solar-electric ferry service. Powered by the sun and a Torqeedo drive train, the innovative 14.65m-long emission-free vessel operates several times a day between the village of Kamp in mainland Germany and the island of Usedom, which forms part of the popular 350km Berlin–Usedom cycle route.

The solar-electric ferry travels the same route as the previous diesel-powered version, which lost its operating licence a couple of years ago. The ending of the old service created a problem for both visitors and the village economy alike, explains Siegfried Henck, who presides over the local harbour association:

“People still arrived on bicycles and wanted to get on the ferry. But then they realised: The ferry is gone. For our tourism, it was a disaster. Really tough.

Going with another fossil-fuel-powered vessel was simply not an option, he adds:

It would have been nonsense. Most visitors arrive by bicycle and muscle-power, so a quiet, clean and emission-free electric ferry fits the bill.

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The new Antonia vom Kamp ferry operates at 8km/h, with a max speed of 15km/h and is propelled by a single, 60kW Deep Blue electric azimuth thruster (rudder propeller). The system is completed by two Deep Blue batteries with a total capacity of 80kWh and a 4.3kWp solar installation.

Working together, the two boatbuilders Ostseestaal and Ampereship form one of Europe’s market leaders in the construction of solar-electric ferry designs and ships for professional inland navigation. According to their estimates, the new clean and green propulsion system will save 20 tonnes of CO2 every year.

The Deep Blue system does more than just generate its own renewable energy, however, it saves power, too.

There are multiple efficiency savings to be made over a diesel engine — which would continue to run during passenger loading and unloading, wasting fuel and money — explains Kay Peters, managing director of Oderhaff Reederei Peters, the company that operates the new ferry:

“We can cover our energy needs almost entirely with the photovoltaic system. Electric motors only consume energy when the ship is moving. Here we have no gearbox, no losses, nothing. The ongoing costs in terms of maintenance, oil changes, and spare parts are much lower.”  

As a result, business risk is reduced and resilience built-in, sustainably — which is a win-win scenario for all involved, agrees Tommi Salonen, senior vice president sales at Torqeedo:

“When you take a ferry out of operation for maintenance, you’re losing money every minute. Solar-electric water taxis and ferries are more than just clean and green. Electric drives like Deep Blue require much less maintenance and insulate their owners from fuel price volatility.”

Founded in 2005, in the German town of Starnberg, Torqeedo develops and manufactures electric and hybrid drives from 0.5 to 100kW for commercial applications and recreational use. Its products are characterised by an aim for uncompromising high-tech focus, maximum efficiency, and complete system integration. Torqeedo is part of the DEUTZ Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of innovative drive systems.

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