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Hybrid technology cuts emissions on passenger ferries in Cornwall

9 June 2021

A cutting edge ‘green’ hybrid-engined ferry, powered by state-of-the-art Lithium-ion batteries, has been developed, trialled and successfully operated commercially on the River Fal, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Our clients at Cornwall Ferries Ltd, operating as Fal River Cornwall, have put their classic wooden ferry “Kingsley II”, that was originally built in 1934 by Percy Mitchell in South Cornwall at the disposal of a team of expert engineers from REAP Systems, supported by global battery manufacturer GS Yuasa.

The project, named “HEVIMA” Hybrid Electrical Vessel propulsion with Integrated Motor Assist’, used the ferry as a test bed for a new electric and diesel hybrid engine. This is the first hybrid diesel electric engine to be retro installed in a passenger ferry of this scale in the UK and the scope for transforming emissions on all rivers, waterways and coastal traffic worldwide is “huge”, claims the Cornish ferry operator.

The G7 meeting has as one of its top priorities the discussion of the Climate Emergency and agreeing actions to reduce carbon emissions preparing for COP26 later this year in Glasgow. Here in Cornwall, the small family owned ferry company, Fal River Cornwall has been active with world-wide experts in test bedding clean maritime propulsion systems and other green initiatives which could have significant global impacts to reduce emissions in the marine sector.

Following the installation, the ferry was successfully operated in the summer of 2019 along the River Fal between the ports of St Mawes and Trelissick carrying thousands of passengers. The propulsion system operates on electric power in the Special Area of Conservation in St Mawes and in the upper reaches of the Fal and thus reduces carbon emissions and also noise pollution – improving passenger enjoyment.

Chairman of Fal River Cornwall Tim Smithies explains:

“We have found passengers enjoyed the quieter engine operation and also were fascinated by these steps we are taking to address the UK zero carbon goals in the marine sector. It’s also been great to work alongside engineers to improve the passenger experience on the new passenger service from St Mawes and Trelissick.

“We operate in one of Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and where nature and the sea have such beauty and majesty – we want clean, safe transport systems connecting communities on the river and estuary.”

During the G7 conference (10th-13th June) the Kingsley II will be alongside in Falmouth near the International Press Centre with opportunities to book interviews with systems designer Dennis Doerffel of REAP Systems, the principle engineer on the project and Tim Smithies, Chairman of Fal River Cornwall, and other members of the project team.

Fal River Cornwall’s partners in HEVIMA include many of the leading names in British marine research and development, REAP Systems who worked with GS Yuasa, Babcock International, Lloyds Register, Marine South East, Southampton University, Mainstay Marine and Innovate UK. But also the project involved an array of leading international component suppliers and how apt that many of these critical component suppliers are drawn from the G7 countries – a metaphor for the cooperation that is required globally to tackle climate change.

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