Collaboration propels UK's first electric passenger ferry

Taking to the water in October 2020, the e-Voyager is the UK’s first electric, sea going passenger vessel; the result of an innovative collaboration and exchange of skills between four local businesses, the University of Plymouth and University of Exeter.

Led by Plymouth Boat Trips, the e-Voyager has been developed to reduce the environmental impact of maritime transport on coastal waters, using repurposed Nissan Leaf batteries in place of a diesel-powered engine. Using an existing work boat, the vessel was rebuilt over several months at Voyager Marine in Cornwall, working alongside engineering company EV Parts to install an advanced electric motor, and Teignbridge Propellers to optimise propeller performance for maximum battery efficiency.

Working in partnership with these local businesses, the University of Plymouth provided a range of specialist technical support, research expertise and business support. Project and Knowledge Exchange Manager for the Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab, Sarah Fear, was pivotal in managing the relationship with Plymouth Boat Trips, from assisting with the application for grant funds to facilitating the various channels of support from across the university. 

Initially, research expertise was sought to assist with the selection of electric propulsion and battery systems. As the project moved into build phase, technical support was provided on the selection and installation of purpose-built sensors to record data on emissions including noise pollution, air pollution and fuel consumption. Researchers collected data during the build stage and continue to do so as part of the vessel’s rigorous trails before it launches commercially in April 2021. Using the technology and skills of the Impact Lab, data visualisation will be created to demonstrate the environmental benefits to Plymouth Sound.

“It’s hugely exciting to see the launch of e-Voyager and the result of such a progressive collaboration to create a cleaner and more sustainable future for the marine industry”

Andy Hurley, Project leader for Plymouth Boat Trips and Voyager Marine

The success of this project has paved the way for the conversion of larger vessels in Plymouth Boat Trips’ fleet, along with the new build of similar vessels. The electric mode of transport supports Plymouth City Council's sustainable transport goals and has been a catalyst for the Council’s installation of three 22 KwH chargers on the Barbican landing stage.

Project leader for Plymouth Boat Trips and Voyager Marine, Andy Hurley, said: “It’s hugely exciting to see the launch of e-Voyager and the result of such a progressive collaboration to create a cleaner and more sustainable future for the marine industry. Through developing the technology and maritime applications, Voyager Marine is helping to place Plymouth and the South West as UK leaders in the conversion and new build of zero-carbon, fully electric commercial vessels.”

Dr Richard Pemberton, Lecturer in Mechanical and Marine Engineering Design at the University of Plymouth, added: “Through our diverse mix of staff and specialisms, the University of Plymouth has been able to support Plymouth Boat Trips and firmly believes that the work conducted on e-Voyager will pave the way for larger scale innovation towards meeting the Government’s target of a 50% reduction in emissions from the maritime sector by 2050.”

The project has been funded by the £1.4million Clean Maritime Call, a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport (DfT), with further support from the £6.4million Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab and the £4million Marine Business Technology Centre, both partfunded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Find out more about the Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab

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