A new project has been launched in the UK to create high-speed, zero-emission passenger ferries. Engineers have conducted initial tests on a foiling trimaran, and believe the resulting low drag and power requirements could make for a cost-effective solution for passenger ferries. The aim is to create zero-emission, low-drag, high-speed vessels with medium capacities, which could encourage a shift from road to alternative transport along underutilised coastal waterways.
The project is being funded by Innovate UK, with £1.86 million ($2.3 million) being invested across two years. The money comes from the Cleaner Maritime Demonstration Competition, which is part of a wider government initiative to seek out new clean maritime technologies. An industry-led collaboration between Solent University, Chartwell Marine, and Newcastle Marine Services is now developing a scaled demonstrator vessel, which would prove that the concept is viable across a range of sea and weather conditions.
The concept was developed by Solent University, which has already seen promising results in initial research. The team are aiming to build an electric hydro-foiling high-speed trimaran capable of carrying up to 40 passengers, prioritising short- to medium-range coastal routes. They hope to achieve speeds of up to 28 knots using only 250kW of power – less than that used by a diesel-powered equivalent vessel.
Following the successful deployment of the demonstration vessel, the team hope that a full-size zero-emission ferry could be built for commercial operation, providing cost-effective solutions for high-speed passenger ferry operators both within the UK and abroad. “Recent advancements in electrical propulsion technology mean zero-emission, high-speed medium-capacity passenger vessels are now viable”, said Dr. Laurie Wright, a leader of the project and Associate Professor of Marine Sustainability at Solent University. It now seems likely that the way we travel across the world’s coasts could be making great strides forward towards sustainability.
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