Passengers on the MS Ampere, a Norwegian ferry that travels back and forth across the country’s largest and deepest fjord, have been enjoying an unusually quiet trip for the past few years. That’s because they’re riding on the world’s first all-electric car ferry, powered with batteries manufactured by Canadian company Corvus Energy.
Since launching in 2015, the ferry has cut emissions by 95% and cut operating costs by 80%, according to ferry operator Norled AS. The reduction of noise pollution on the water has also been well-received by passengers and local residents alike. Norwegian authorities are now planning for 60 hybrid and all-electric ferries to be in operation by 2023, with Corvus Energy slated to capture a significant portion of the battery business.
Ships and other marine vessels remain a significant source of air pollution, accounting for around 3% of global emissions. If left unchecked, this pollution risks rising to as high as 17% of global emissions by 2050. Yet efforts to reduce emissions face similar challenges as air transportation, which is hampered by technological limitations that restrict the ability to travel long distances without stopping to charge or refuel.
One electrification sweet spot that has begun to emerge involves shorter travel distances – a perfect fit for most ferry rides. Being able to quickly recharge batteries while loading up on cars and passengers has given ferry operators and customers confidence in the technology, which Corvus Energy has been well-positioned to provide.
Founded in 2009 out of a garage in Richmond, BC, the company has steadily grown into a market leader in the electric marine battery segment. The company received support from various levels of government in scaling up their business, including research funding from the National Resource Council and investments from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. It has now been selected to provide batteries for over 40 similar short-distance hybrid and all-electric ferries globally.
Corvus has also begun providing batteries for all sorts of other marine uses, including workboats for harbour garbage collection in Oslo and hybrid port cranes for various Chinese ports. The company’s operations have led to the global reduction of 75,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 190 different projects thus far.
The global market for electric marine propulsion technology has rapidly expanded out of Norway in recent years, including the deployment of two all-electric barge ships in the Netherlands and a Chinese all-electric cargo ship. Several jurisdictions in the U.S. have now ordered electric or hybrid-electric ferries, including Washington State and New York City.
Canada will see its first electric ferry deployed in 2020 for travel to Amherst Island in Lake Ontario, while British Columbia’s new Clean BC emissions reduction plan has set a target for the full electrification of the inland ferry fleet by 2040.
It looks like Corvus is poised to have a whole new market open up on its own waters.