Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Second CalMac hybrid ferry to be named Lochinvar

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of  new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.

The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.

The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.

Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.

The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.

Via New hybrid ferry named MV Lochinvar after Sir Walter Scott poem | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Sir Walter Scott, “Young Lochinvar”


11/04/2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland pioneers hybrid ferries, but could it go for battery as well?

I hadn’t realised it was just over a year to the day that I had first noticed and written about the pioneering hybrid ferries had commissioned, and were to be built in our very own Scottish shipyards – Fergusons Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow to be exact.

I won’t repeat the story behind these new ferries and their operation (you may read the original post here: The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real where links are given to the manufacturers description of the concept and its operation) , other than to say the two vessels are described as the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.

The first of the two hybrid ferries was completed recently, and the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00. The vessel is almost 150 feet long, and can accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars, or two heavy goods vehicles.

The launch was recorded by someone lucky enough to work at the yard, and get a privileged position:

See also: ‘Hybrid’ CalMac ferry launched from Port Glasgow

Completion for delivery into service with CalMac is expected to be completed during early 2013, with the new ferry expected to come into service on the route between Skye and Raasay next summer, following fitting out, testing and certification. Trial are expected to take place in April/May, with the handover taking place in May.

Hallaig has its own page on the excellent Ships Of CalMac web site.

So, since we appear to have a reasonably well thought out and Scottish-made hybrid ferry (and another in the pipeline) ready to go into service, why did I refer to battery operation in the title?

Battery ferries

While Scotland has its ‘world first’ as its first hybrid car ferry gets set to enter operation…

I have recently come across another ‘world first’ in the form of the first car ferry powered by a purely electric drive system, as reported by Siemens on January 9, 2013.

Working together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens announced development of the world’s first electrically powered car ferry, known as ZeroCat. Larger than Hallaig, their 80-metre (260 foot) vessel can accommodate up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, so is not only fully electric, but in a different class, given its ability to carry so many passengers.

Battery ferry

ZeroCat battery ferry – Siemens press picture

Due to enter service in 2015, ZeroCat will serve the route between Lavik and Oppedal, across the Sognefjord. The electrically powered ferry was developed in response to a competition organized by Norway’s Ministry of Transport, and won by shipping company Norled, which was also granted a license to operate the route until 2025 as part of its prize.

Instead of the 2,000-hp diesel engine which powers the current ferry and consumes on average more than 264,000 gallons (over 1 million litres) of diesel each year, and emits around 570 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 15 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NO),  ZeroCat uses an 800 kW, 11 tonne battery to drives two screws. Although the battery is heavy, the completed vessel weighs only half that of a conventional catamaran ferry, as its twin hulls are fabricated in aluminium. The hulls also use a particularly slim design which increases their efficiency, and Siemens estimates that the new ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.

One  critical requirements the design was required to satisfy was the need to fully charge the batteries in only 10 minutes – the time taken to turn the ferry around at each terminal. This power demand rendered conventional charging methods unsuitable, since neither port was supplied by a large enough electrical grid to deliver the required charging current.

Instead, each terminal is equipped with a high-capacity battery installation, able to be charged slowly while the ferry is en route. This means they are then ready to provide a quick “dump charge” in the 10 minute period during which the ferry is docked while it loads and unloads it cargo of passengers and cars.

Such a system would seem to be one which could be used to advantage in Scotland, where a number of short routes exist, and the ferry terminals are only a short distance apart. For example, Rhubodach/Colintraive, and Largs/Cumbrae come to mind in my own area.

These journeys are much shorter, and of lesser capacity than that given in the Norwegian example, simplifying the demands on the batteries, motors, and charging systems. The turnaround times are also somewhat longer here, allowing more relaxed charging criteria. Given the shorter routes, it should also be possible to relax the full charge requirement too, and allow such ferries to operate without having to receive a full charge at every docking.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone in this business now (I used to, long ago, and even worked on some ferries – no, not in the galley, but in a technical capacity), so have no idea if anything like this is even being considered for future vessels operating in Scottish waters.

05/02/2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

While it would unkind to say that I actually doubted the rumours that I first detected regarding ‘battery operated ferries’ coming to the Clyde, the stories did come as a surprise, meaning that whoever was going to undertake this venture (there were no real details given) had to be ready to try something new.

It wasn’t long before the story broke formally, and the news came of two hybrid RoRo (roll-on roll-off) diesel-electric ferries, described as a world first for such sea-going vessels.

While the principle of using diesel (or other) powered generators to power electric propulsion units (eliminating the need for a direct connection of a drive-shaft between the engine and the propeller), combining this with rechargeable batteries which will supply a minimum of 20% of energy consumed was new.

I’m afraid I find little that ever makes me agree with those I refer to as ‘professional CalMac bashers’, and the fact that CalMac went with this proposal is, to me, yet another reason to turn a deaf ear towards them.

In operation, the ferries can be powered from the generators, or the batteries, which are kept topped up by the generators, and will be charged overnight, while the vessels are moored. Although the overnight charging will be carried out using mains electricity, it is hoped that energy from local wind, wave or solar systems will be used to charge the batteries as such facilities become available near the moorings.

Scottish build

Even more remarkable is the fact that the innovative project will also be undertaken on the Clyde – the ferries will be built by Ferguson Shipbuilders, which will be working along with Glasgow-based ship design specialists SeaTec, and electrical specialists Tec-Source. The project is supported by a Scottish government loan, with an additional funding of £450,000 provided from the European Regional Development Fund.

Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited is now part of the Ferguson Group, and is a shipyard located in Port Glasgow. Unfortunately,  it is currently notable as being the last remaining shipbuilder on the lower Clyde, and the only builder of merchant ships on the river, where it has long been a builder of RoRo ferries.

The contract is worth £22 million, and the media carried news of the first steel being cut on January 30, 2012s, with the first ferries of the ferries set to enter service in early 2013.

The 900 tonne ferries are designed t0 accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars, and for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.

Some background links to save you the effort of digging:

Hybrid Ferries Project | CMAL | Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.3MB)

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.9MB)

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

30/01/2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whither the plug-in hybrid car?

Pious 2008 Prius

Pious 2008 Prius

One of the great mysteries which has preyed on my mind, for some years now, has been the lack of a charging socket on petrol-electric hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Pious… what? oh, sorry, Toyota Prius. Widely touted as some sort of miracle, if driven normally (by which I simply mean someone not trying to eke every mile out of each tankful) , then the consumption matches that of any other car with the same size engine – not really a surprise to any engineer as the car’s petrol-electric system is a closed loop. The battery is charged by the engine, so battery mileage still comes out of the tank, and losses in the system account for any contribution that regenerative might make. Regen doesn’t count since anyone with a light foot on the brakes will get very little from that source.

The Prius is generally considered to be nothing more than a Fashion Statement by those who analyse it for themselves, and ignore the hype.

Don’t take my word for it, there are plenty of independent reports to be found on the web, prepared by people with no connection to Toyota, or any other manufacturer, but who have simply been disillusioned by the Pious. And, having to drive it a particular way is no excuse.

As I noted at the start, one of the stunning omissions from cars like the Prius, and all the other hybrids so far as I can recall, has been the complete absence of a charging socket. Instead of being able to plug the car in overnight and charge the battery, the only to charge the battery in a hybrid like the Prius has been to take the thing out for a run.

A BBC news report spotted today might provide the answer. While I can’t get a straight answer from the car’s data, the BBC reporter claims a Prius runs out of battery power after travelling about six miles. The car’s data for the most recent model with improved efficiency and a smaller and lighter NiMH battery shows it has a 200 volt, 1,300 Ah battery combined with a 50 kW electric motor. I’ve no idea what efficiency their control system has, so we have to make some guesses now. While the bare numbers suggest the batteries would run the motor for about half an hour, that assumes a flat discharge curve, and that the motor would run acceptably right up to the last minute, and we know that is wrong as the end of the discharge curve will tail off, leaving the motor running unacceptably slowly. There’s another twist in the data, as the battery is only charged to a maximum of 60% of capacity, in an attempt to extend its life. Without trying too hard, it looks as if we’ve managed to work out that a Pious will only run for 15 minutes, or less, on battery. And in the real world, with transmission and control losses, this will be even less.

If we’re remotely correct, it’s not hard to see why independent experts have christened it a Fashion Statement, and why they’ve never bothered to fit a charging socket. The Prius really is a sop to making a petrol car meet low emission regulations, not to the provision of an alternative power source or renewable power.

Toyota blurb may be hailing the “Prius with a plug” as some sort of miracle that will have everyone plugging in to use mains electricity to charge their Pious battery, and even going so far as to state that they are boosting renewable energy use and promoting wind farms and wave power (even nuclear if I read their claims properly) by creating demand for overnight electricity to charge their hybrids, but until they put a decent size battery in the car in the first place, it’s all pretty pointless – except to let them fiddle with petrol/electric numbers, and add in the electric miles to the petrol miles and calculate wonderful, but impractical, fuel consumption numbers.

I’m afraid I can only conclude that the past lack of a mains lead on the Prius was either because Toyota reckoned it would have been seen as a bit of a joke (for six miles), or that it would be something they could pull out of the box later, and score some green or environmental points with as a “great idea”.

Lest anyone dismiss me as a Toyota-basher, be clear I’m only questioning the claims around the Prius. I am a Toyota owner and like it, you’re not getting any details because I don’t like having to avoid assassins, but I will say it does 15 mpg and is good for getting away from assassins.

Of course, it doesn’t take any engineering analysis at all to work out that the Prius is “show” and not “go” – just look at the way celebrity vermin flock around it and hype their ownership, as if it makes up for all the energy waste their various entourages squander as they follow them about in SUVs, jets, etc etc.

11/09/2008 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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