ABB technology ensures fast charging for Amsterdam’s new electricity

ABB’s power conversion technology ensures stable power supply for fast-charging units serving five new electric ferries on 24-hour services across the North Sea Canal in Amsterdam. The new ferries have been ordered by the city’s public transport company, Gemeentelijk vervoerbedrijf (GVB), as an important step in its strategy to become a sustainable and emission-free transport company. By 2023, they will completely replace the existing diesel-powered fleet that dates back to the 1930s.

GVB will deploy the electric ferries on three busy North Sea Canal routes that carry more than 350,000 cars a year. The ferries will operate continuously, day and night, with just three minutes allowed to recharge the battery after each 20-minute round trip. This makes fast charging an essential factor in maintaining reliable service.

The contract for the construction of the fully automated charging stations has been awarded to BAM Infra Rail bv, part of the BAM group, a leading construction, real estate and civil engineering company. To ensure safe and efficient charging and maximize battery life, the 750V direct current (DC) supplied by the chargers should not be affected by fluctuations in the power grid. BAM approached ABB to provide the technology to convert alternating current (AC) grid voltage to stable DC power.

ABB has delivered three ACS880 power supply modules, with power conversion based on integrated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology. This ensures a very stable DC output with minimal grid distortion by reacting to grid events and compensating for voltage drops.

The ferries are based on a ‘plug-in hybrid’ design, but will normally run on 100% electric power from their 680 kilowatt-hour (kWh) batteries. They will only use the generator in conditions greater than wind force 8.

“The fast charging solution provided by BAM and ABB is fully automated and can easily be integrated into ferry schedules. Electric operation means there are no particulate or carbon dioxide emissions. When the five electric ferries are in service and the old diesel vessels are retired, we will save 800,000 liters of diesel per year, eliminating more than 2,400 tonnes of carbon emissions,” says Alain Asin, project manager at GVB.

“ABB has a well-established track record of providing stable and reliable shore-to-ship power for a wide range of vessels,” said Marcel Zevenbergen of ABB System Drives. “A key factor in this success is that we subject our power modules to extensive internal and external testing to ensure reliable operation over a long life.”

The new GVB ferries can carry up to 400 passengers, 20 cars or four trucks. The first of the fleet entered service in August 2021 and passengers said their journey was now much more comfortable, quieter and cleaner than before.

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