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SHIFTR revolutionises fast ferries with autonomous battery swap

Published 9 Oct 2023 (updated 7 May 2024) · 3 min read

At a glance

  • Autonomous battery swap solution enables electrification of fast ferries
  • Robot quickly replaces up to four batteries at the quay
  • No need for intermediate charging stops or timetable changes

SHIFTR delivers an autonomous battery swap solution for fast ferries, enabling the transition to electric operation with no change in service quality. “Our disruptive technology enables seamless, zero-emission fast ferry operation,” says Karolina Adolfsson, Head of Technical Innovation at Norled and Co-founder of SHIFTR.

From New York City to Norway, people in coastal areas rely on fast ferries to transport them to work and home again. These ferries must be fast, efficient and punctual; otherwise they will lose riders. This creates a challenge for the green transition. A zero-emission alternative is needed to replace today’s powerful fossil-fuel engines – without compromising on speed or terminal time.

“The challenge is to make clean battery technology work for fast ferries. Electric ferries must still be fast enough to maintain high-quality service,” explains Adolfsson.

Hours of high-speed, zero-emission operation

SHIFTR enables electrification of fast ferries with autonomous battery swap technology. The system consists of a manipulator, elevator, scalable shuffler and scalable battery house on the quay (or a floating terminal), and a scalable carousel for one to four batteries on the boat deck.

A robot quickly exchanges the ferry’s empty battery with a fully charged one, keeping electric fast ferries operating at top speed all day long and eliminating downtime in connection with quayside charging.

“With SHIFTR, fast ferries can maintain the same speed and keep the same timetable. With frequent swaps, battery weight and energy consumption are reduced, and existing diesel ferries can be retrofitted, avoiding the need for newbuilds,” says Adolfsson.

While the company encourages conversions, the newbuild market is equally interesting.

“Our solution provides unlimited range on 100 per cent electric power, which ensures uninterrupted operation,” she adds. Moreover, conversion to electric is simplified with DNV-approved standalone battery containers, eliminating the need to construct costly battery rooms.

Illustration of a system for swapping batteries on electric boats
Shiftr autonomous battery swap system at work.

SHIFTR cuts thousands of metric tons of CO2

SHIFTR offers a plethora of environmental benefits. As Adolfsson points out, “SHIFTR will accelerate the green transition for fast ferries.” There are many reasons for this.

SHIFTR’s simple conversion process takes half the time of a newbuild, allowing express ferries to achieve zero-emission operation twice as quickly.

In addition, the solution keeps battery weight on the vessel to a minimum, reducing energy consumption. Lower charging power requirements reduce the demand for expensive grid upgrades.

In a retrofit project for Oslofjord ferries, SHIFTR will reduce diesel consumption by 1 million litres per year and CO2 by 3 000 metric tons per year, while a newbuild project in Trøndelag will reduce diesel consumption by 5.6 million litres and CO2 by 15 000 metric tons per year.

Demand grows for high-speed electric ferries

The global electric ship market, which includes express ferries, is projected to reach USD 12.78 billion by 2030. This huge expected growth is driven in part by the IMO emissions reduction targets and pressure from national and municipal authorities to decarbonise maritime transport.

SHIFTR is already in a strong position to lead this market niche. “SHIFTR stands out as the most mature technology for autonomous battery swap on passenger vessels,” explains Adolfsson.

With the support of the ferry operator Norled, SHIFTR has shown its competitive edge in the Norwegian public tender landscape, securing three significant fast ferry contracts between 2021 and 2022. Following a full-scale large demonstration in the Oslofjord, SHIFTR will be market ready in Q2 2024.

“This is an innovation for the whole world with wide-ranging implications. In the future, zero-emission fast boats will be able to sail around the globe, 24/7, provided there are battery swap stations along the route,” concludes Adolfsson.

Illustration of a battery swap system for electric ferries in resting position
SHIFTR's autonomous battery swap system in resting position.

Karolina Adolfsson


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