Massive Battery Electric Ferry Under Construction in Australia
Featuring an electric motor-driven waterjet propulsion system and an energy storage capacity of 40 megawatt-hours, the 426-foot-long Incat Hull 096 ferry will be the largest electric ship of its kind.
Incat Tasmania, an Australian ferry manufacturer, recently revealed it’s building the world’s largest lightweight battery-electric ship for its customer, Argentina-based ferry operator Buquebús.
A rendering of the Incat Hull 096 vessel. Image used courtesy of Incat Tasmania
Incat selected Wärtsilä, a Finnish equipment manufacturer serving the marine market, to provide the electrical integration with its battery-electric propulsion system and waterjets. The company claims the battery modules and energy storage system (ESS) are four times bigger than the largest installation on an electric/hybrid ship for marine transport.
The battery-electric ship, a Ro-Pax (roll-on/roll-off passenger) ferry called “Incat Hull 096,” will have more than 40 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy storage capacity. Stretching 426.5 feet in length, the vessel can seat 2,100 passengers and crew members and hold 225 cars. It will also host a 21,527-square-foot retail store.
Corvus Energy, a Norway-based ESS supplier, will contribute its low-weight battery, called Dolphin NexGen.
The parts and equipment will be delivered by late -2024. The ship will start operating in 2025, traveling destinations between Argentina and Uruguay in South America.
The bow is under construction at Incat’s shipyard in Tasmania, Australia. Image used courtesy of Incat Tasmania
Incat is building the vessel with marine-grade aluminum at a shipyard in Tasmania, Australia. The company mentioned that aluminum allows its ships to be lighter than steel-constructed vessels of the same size, demanding less power for propulsion and enabling higher range at lower speeds.
Facing high interest in battery-electric ships, Incat is also working on building a second but smaller battery-powered passenger ferry.
The Tech Behind the Project
The project was initially envisioned as a liquified natural gas (LNG)-powered vessel. However, Incat revealed in January 2023 that it was in discussions with Buquebús to replace the LNG powerplant with an electric system. In the following months, Incat coordinated with its suppliers to switch the propulsion method to an electric system.
Wärtsilä will provide energy management and power conversion systems, a direct-current shore charging system and hub, battery modules, eight electric motors, eight axial flow waterjets, and its ProTouch propulsion control system.
Roger Holm, head of Wärtsilä’s marine power business, called the ferry a “game-changing advance” in the design of catamarans, a type of watercraft with two similarly sized parallel hulls. Holm said the battery pack will have an eight-water jet propulsor configuration that’s the most efficient on the market for the same speed range and application. Wärtsilä boasts that its axial flow waterjet product features low weight, shallow draft, and low-maintenance technology.
Renderings of the internals of the ship and the electric motor-driven waterjet propulsion system. Image used courtesy of Wärtsilä Corporation
The ship will use Wärtsilä’s WXJ1100 modular waterjets, part of a series offering an enhanced axial pump design to boost performance with increased thrust. According to Wärtsilä's website, the improved design has a 25% reduction in the mounting flange diameter, a 10% weight reduction, and a 35% higher cavitation margin over the previous version of the product with a mixed flow pump design.
Corvus’s latest-generation lightweight battery, Dolphin NextGen, was designed based on the four-year development of its Blue Whale ESS, which is tailored for slow charge/discharge rates and serves customers seeking emissions-free sailing. Development involved a ground-up redesign and improvements to the battery chemistry, mechanical and electrical design, and software. Corvus touts the Dolphin NextGen ESS’s lightweight design, low-volumetric density, and superior flexibility.
Corvus Energy was selected to supply a battery system with 40 megawatt-hours of energy storage. Image used courtesy of Corvus Energy
According to Corvus’s website, the Blue Whale ESS—the architecture Dolphin NextGen was built on—was developed for larger installations reaching 1140 volts direct current (VDC). In addition to passive single-cell thermal runaway isolation, the ESS has a 30% lower weight and 50% lower volume than Orca Energy, its other maritime ESS launched in 2016.