A Swedish hydrofoil ferry seeks to electrify the waterways

by Ryan Lee
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Electric Hydrofoil Ferry

A hydrofoil ferry manufactured in Sweden aims to revolutionize waterborne public transport with its cutting-edge technology. The P-12 vessel, developed by electric boat maker Candela, offers a remarkable advancement in eco-friendly transportation within urban areas, particularly those with access to waterways. As it swiftly traverses the Stockholm archipelago, the P-12 appears almost silent, gliding effortlessly approximately one meter above the water’s surface. This innovative ferry, unveiled recently, represents a potential breakthrough in sustainable public transit on the water.

Erik Eklund, head of Candela’s commercial vessel division, expressed, “This is a genuine leap forward. The energy efficiency achieved by elevating the vessel on hydrofoil wings allows us to attain the necessary speed and range while relying on battery power.” Designed to accommodate up to 30 passengers, the P-12 can reach a maximum speed of 30 knots (56 kph or 35 mph), significantly outperforming other electric passenger ferries. The secret lies in its carbon fiber hydrofoil wings, which lift the boat out of the water, dramatically reducing drag.

Candela asserts that its technology can reduce energy consumption per passenger-kilometer by a staggering 95% compared to conventional diesel-powered ships currently servicing the picturesque Stockholm archipelago, a region characterized by thousands of islands and skerries stretching into the Baltic Sea. Moreover, the P-12 is exempt from Stockholm’s 12-knot speed limit due to its wakeless operation, ensuring it doesn’t generate disruptive waves or erode shorelines.

While the P-12 is still undergoing testing, it is scheduled to commence service in July, connecting the Stockholm suburb of Ekero to the city center as part of a nine-month pilot project. This initiative is expected to cut the travel time from Ekero by conventional public transport from 55 minutes to just 25 minutes.

Candela’s vision extends beyond Stockholm, with hopes that cities like San Francisco, New York, and Venice will embrace the electrification of waterborne public transport. Gustav Hemming, Vice President of the Regional Executive Board in Stockholm, emphasizes the importance of expanding water-based public transport as a means to enhance overall public transit attractiveness.

In 2022, there were approximately 6.2 million public transport boat journeys in the Stockholm region, a figure steadily rising post-COVID-19 pandemic. With congested roads and the environmental concerns associated with building new ones, waterborne public transport offers an attractive alternative.

The utilization of hydrofoils to lift vessels out of the water, reducing drag, is not a novel concept but had faced obstacles due to cost and maintenance issues. However, the emergence of lightweight carbon fiber materials has revived this technology, not only in elite sailing but also in the public transport sector, driven by efficient electric motors and rising traditional fuel costs.

Arash Eslamdoost, associate professor of applied hydrodynamics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, remarks on the potential of hydrofoils, stating, “We know that marine vessels are often energy hungry, and the limited energy density of today’s batteries will be a barrier for electrification of a marine fleet. Here is where foiling steps in as a radical solution for taking the most out of the limited onboard electric power.”

Globally, various hydrofoil electric passenger ferries are in the design and development stages, signaling a broader shift toward sustainable maritime transport. For instance, Artemis Technologies in the U.K. is planning a fully electric hydrofoil ferry for Northern Ireland’s Belfast-Bangor route.

Robin Cook from the Swedish Transport Agency emphasizes the need for public infrastructure to evolve alongside these technological advancements, advocating for incentives and onshore power supply connections at ports to support the electrification of ships. This holistic approach is crucial for the successful integration of hydrofoil technology into the maritime industry and the promotion of sustainable, efficient waterborne public transport.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hydrofoil Ferry

What is the P-12 hydrofoil ferry?

The P-12 hydrofoil ferry is an innovative waterborne transport vessel developed by Candela, an electric boat maker in Sweden. It is designed to be an eco-friendly and efficient means of public transportation, offering a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

How does the P-12 hydrofoil ferry work?

The P-12 hydrofoil ferry operates by using carbon fiber hydrofoil wings to lift the boat approximately one meter above the water’s surface. This technology dramatically reduces drag, allowing the ferry to achieve high speeds while running on battery power.

What makes the P-12 ferry unique?

The P-12 ferry is unique due to its advanced hydrofoil technology, which enables it to reach speeds of up to 30 knots (56 kph or 35 mph) and significantly reduce energy consumption compared to traditional diesel-powered vessels.

What are the environmental benefits of the P-12 hydrofoil ferry?

Candela claims that the P-12 ferry reduces energy consumption per passenger-kilometer by an impressive 95% compared to diesel ships. Additionally, it leaves no wake, contributing to reduced waterway disturbance and shoreline erosion.

When will the P-12 hydrofoil ferry be in service?

While the P-12 is currently undergoing testing, it is scheduled to enter service in July. It will initially connect the Stockholm suburb of Ekero to the city center as part of a nine-month pilot project, reducing travel times significantly.

Where else is hydrofoil technology being adopted for public transport?

Cities like San Francisco, New York, and Venice are also considering the adoption of hydrofoil technology for waterborne public transport, following Stockholm’s lead in electrifying their waterways.

What challenges does hydrofoil technology face in public transportation?

While hydrofoil technology offers advantages in terms of energy efficiency and reduced drag, it requires adequate infrastructure and onshore power supply connections at ports to support its electrification fully. Public agencies and harbor authorities play a crucial role in enabling its widespread adoption.

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