Drives and Controls Magazine
Robots will plug largest electric ferries into recharging points
Published:  15 August, 2016

The world’s largest battery-powered ferries, due to enter service next year between Denmark and Sweden, will be plugged automatically into recharging points at either end of their 4km crossing by industrial robots. The aim is to reduce connection times and thus maximise charging times.

The Tycho Brahe and Aurora ferries, operated by HH Ferries, are being converted from their existing diesel engine operation to battery power, as part of a SEK300m ($23.6m) project, which is being funded partly by a SEK120m ($14.2m) grant from the EU. The EU funding, from the Inea innovation agency, was a precondition for HH Ferries’ decision to proceed with the project. HH says that the project will halve its emissions compared to the existing diesel operation.

The two ferries will operate completely on battery power on the crossing between Helsingør in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden, carrying more than 7.4 million passengers and 1.9 million vehicles annually. The ferries’ combined battery capacity of 8,320kWh will be the equivalent of 10,700 car batteries.

The robotic charging systems at either end of the crossing will operated using 3D laser scanners and wireless communications between ship and shore. When the vessel is 4m from the shore, hatches will open automatically on the ship and in the building housing the ABB IRB 7600 robot. During the last 400mm of the ferry’s approach, the robot will reach out and pull the low-voltage and 11kV cables from the ship and plug them into connectors on the shore.

HH Ferries' Techo Brahe ferry is one of two vessels being converted from diesel to battery power

The ferries will operate around the clock, departing every 15 minutes. The change to electric power will not affect their 20-minute crossing times, or their time in port.

As well as supplying the robots, ABB is providing the complete power and propulsion systems for the ferries, including their batteries, an energy storage control system, and an onboard DC grid technology.

HH Ferries will assess the operation of the two electric ferries before deciding whether to convert its other vessels to battery power.