Electric ferries enter service on North Sea Canal

Electric ferries are coming into service with 24-hour services across Amsterdam’s North Sea Canal, replacing the existing diesel-powered fleet that dates back to the 1930s.

Electric Ferries
GVB’s electric ferries have three minutes to recharge the battery after each 20-minute cruise (Image: GVB/ABB)

The new ferries have been ordered by the public transport company of Amsterdam, Municipal transport company (GVB)while moving towards a zero-emission transportation company.

GVB deploys the electric ferries on three North Sea Canal routes, which transport more than 350,000 cars annually. The ferries operate day and night with a three minute battery recharging period after each 20 minute cruise.

The contract for the construction of the fully automatic charging stations has been awarded to BAM Infra Rail, part of the BAM Group. To ensure safe and efficient charging and to maximize battery life, the 750 V DC supplied by the chargers should not be affected by mains fluctuations. ABB was approached to provide the technology to convert the AC mains voltage into a stable DC supply.


ABB provided three ACS880 power modules, with power conversion based on integrated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology, which provides a stable DC output with minimal grid distortion by responding to network events and compensating for voltage drops.

The ferries, which can carry up to 400 passengers, 20 cars or four trucks, are based on a plug-in hybrid design, but will normally run electrically with their 680 kWh batteries. They will only use the generator in conditions above gale force.

“BAM and ABB’s fast charging solution is fully automated and can be easily integrated into the ferry timetable. Due to the electrical operation, there are no emissions of particulate matter or carbon dioxide. When all five electric ferries are in service and the old diesel ships are out of service, we will save 800,000 liters of diesel per year and eliminate more than 2,400 tons of CO2 emissions,” said Alain Asin, project manager at GVB in a statement.

The first electric ferry went into service in August 2021 and the rest will complete the fleet in 2023.

Abhishek Maheswari
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