University helps create UK’s first electric sea-going passenger boat

The University of Plymouth is playing a major role in a ground-breaking project to create the UK’s first, sea going, electric passenger vessel.

Involving partners from across the South West, the e-Voyager project will see a new green boat built for Plymouth Boat Trips’ existing ferry routes, including the Cremyll Ferry.

It is being funded through the £1.4million Clean Maritime Call, a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport (DfT) and launched to support the UK’s goal of zero emission shipping.

The work so far has also been supported extensively through two initiatives involving the University – the £6.4million Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab and the £4million Marine Business Technology Centre, both part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

As well as the University and Plymouth Boat Trips, the project also involves several local companies – Voyager Marine, Cornwall; Teignbridge Propellers; and EV Parts UK – and the University of Exeter.

Voyager Marine will become the only UK boat builder to offer the complete package of design, installation and maintenance of sea going, electric vessels.

Plymouth Boat Trips’ project leader, Andy Hurley, said:

“We’re very excited to be leading such a progressive project, to create a cleaner and more sustainable future for the industry.”

Sarah Fear, Project Manager (Impact Lab) at the University of Plymouth, added:

“This is a cutting-edge project and the perfect opportunity to show how the University’s scientific expertise and business support can be combined with the ingenuity of a local company.”

The e-Voyager will be powered by repurposed, Nissan Leaf batteries, meaning they will need almost no maintenance and have clear commercial benefits for businesses in the marine sector. Scientists from the University will carry out research during the build, measuring emissions including noise pollution, air pollution and fuel consumption.

EV Parts will design the battery storage and motor installation. FBW (fly-by-wire) electronic controls will replace the existing systems and will be directly transferable to a wide range of vessels in the under 24m commercial vessel market. The motors, energy storage, control and charging systems will also be tested in a real-world environment, enabling the team to gain approval from regulatory bodies so they can be used in vessels across the sector and, eventually, carry passengers. 

Rigorous running trials will be carried out and Plymouth Boat Trips will be working closely with the University and Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) to develop regulations.

Dr Richard Pemberton, lecturer in Mechanical and Marine Engineering Design, said:

“From my first meeting with Plymouth Boat Trips, I was impressed with their approach to innovation. They are looking to take known technologies from the automotive and industrial sector and apply them in the marine environment. The University’s involvement comes on many fronts, be that academic support on a technical level to assisting with funding applications, and on a personal level, I’ve been linking the project to my teaching, so that the engineers we’re training for tomorrow, are aware of new technologies and where the sector is moving.”

Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab

This project gives Devon-based SMEs the opportunity to work collaboratively with our scientists and technologists to develop new products, services or processes with a focus on big data and safeguarding the environment.

Find out more about Impact Lab here

Marine Business Technology Centre

Thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the project allows a response to sector wide problems by testing facilities on fixed, local and global scales.

Read more about the project