Amsterdam’s new electric ferries

ABB technology ensures fast charging for Amsterdam’s new electric ferries

ABB power conversion technology ensures a stable power supply for the fast-charging units serving five new electric ferries on the round-the-clock services crossing Amsterdam’s North Sea Canal.

The new ferries have been ordered by the city’s public transport company, Gemeentelijk vervoerbedrijf (GVB), as an important step in its strategy to become a sustainable, emission-free transportation company. By 2023 they will completely replace the existing diesel-powered fleet that dates back to the 1930s.

GVB will deploy the electric ferries on three busy North Sea Canal routes that transport more than 350,000 cars a year. The ferries will operate constantly, day and night, with only three minutes allowed for battery charging after each 20-minute round trip. That makes fast charging a critical factor in maintaining a reliable service.

The contract for constructing the fully automated charging stations was awarded to BAM Infra Rail bv, part of BAM Group, a major construction, property and civil engineering company.

To ensure safe, efficient charging and optimize battery life, the 750 V direct current (DC) supplied by the chargers has to be unaffected by fluctuations in the power grid. BAM approached ABB to provide the technology to convert the alternating current (AC) grid voltage to a stable DC supply.

ABB delivered three ACS880 supply modules, with power conversion based on integrated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology. This ensures a very stable DC output with minimal grid distortion by reacting to network events and compensating for voltage drops.

The ferries are based on a “plug-in hybrid” design but will normally run on 100 percent electric power from their 680 kilowatt-hour (kWh) batteries. They will only use the generator in conditions above wind force 8.

“The fast-charging solution delivered by BAM and ABB is fully automated and can easily be integrated into the ferry’s timetable. Electric operation means there are no particulates or carbon dioxide emissions. When all five electric ferries are in service and the old diesel vessels are retired, we will save 800,000 liters of diesel per year, eliminating over 2,400 tonnes of carbon emissions,” says Alain Asin, project manager at GVB.

“ABB has a well-established track record in delivering stable and reliable shore to ship power for a wide range of vessels,” said Marcel Zevenbergen of ABB System Drives. “A key factor in this success is that we subject our supply modules to extensive in-house and external testing to ensure reliable operation over a long lifetime.”

The new GVB ferries can carry up to 400 passengers, 20 cars or 4 trucks. The first in the fleet entered operation in August 2021 and passengers have commented that their journey is now much more comfortable, quieter, and cleaner than before.