Creating the UK’s first electric sea-going passenger boat

The University of Plymouth is renowned across the world for its innovative marine and maritime research and teaching. The e-Voyager project builds on that reputation, in the process creating the UK’s first sea-going, electrical passenger vessel 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. And 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. 

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A step forward in sea travel

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.

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.

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

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Involving researchers and students

Scientists from the University will carry out research during the build, measuring emissions including noise pollution, air pollution and fuel consumption. Rigorous running trials will be carried out and Plymouth Boat Trips will be working closely with the University and Maritime Coastguard Agency to develop regulations.

Specialist technical support and research expertise will be offered on the process of sourcing the right system and putting sensors in place to record data about air, water and noise pollution from the vessel. The data will be collected and analysed in situ, with the Impact Lab creating a data visualisation piece that can be shared with the project’s stakeholders and partners to demonstrate the environmental benefits for Plymouth Sound.

Click on this image to watch a video by student Natasha Batorijs

Students on a range of courses are already getting involved in the project, with some creating animations based on its aims and ambitions while others will soon start work connected to its engineering and environmental aspects. 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 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.”

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Supporting the business community

The University of Plymouth has a track record of using its world-leading research and expertise to support and benefit businesses in Devon, Cornwall and beyond.

The Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab and the Marine Business Technology Centre, both part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, are the latest in a long line of initiatives through which the University has used Government and European funding in this way.

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