The Danish island of Ærø (Aeroe) has been pushing the envelope for decades regarding renewable energy. The island produces more green electricity than it uses, and its district heating plants are based on solar power. In 2019, Ærø Municipality launched the world's farthest-reaching fully electric ferry, the E-ferry 'Ellen'.
Fighting global warming requires innovative solutions, not least in the transport sector. Transportation poses a significant challenge in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The Municipality of Ærø has set ambitious climate goals for itself, and as an island with several ferry routes, replacing diesel ferries with sustainable solutions is necessary to reach these goals. Ærø built the fully electric E-ferry 'Ellen' in partnership with several European companies. In 2019, Ærø launched the revolutionary ferry, breaking the distance world record between charges times 7. The ferry sails 40 km, up to seven times a day. 'Ellen' is emission-free in operation and exemplifies a maritime solution designed for sustainability and for the future.
Although the initial cost of purchasing an electric ferry is higher than for a standard diesel ferry, the E-ferry Project has demonstrated in its publically available evaluation report that sailing fully electric is the cheapest solution. The operating costs of an e-ferry are low in comparison, meaning that an operator will see actual savings over the ferry's lifetime.
The E-ferry also saves the environment from significant greenhouse gas emissions and particle pollution. When charged from the standard Danish grid, it saves more than 2500 tons of CO2/year and half a ton of dangerous particles.
The ferry has helped spur a transition in the maritime sector, and the E-ferry type is applicable for 900+ routes in Europe alone.
Ærø Ferries is a municipal operator. They operate the E-ferry on the Søby-Fynshav route. Ærø's city council is ambitious in achieving a complete transition away from fossil fuels, and these ambitions are reflected in the island's numerous cooperative and private initiatives related to renewable energy. The island has significant local expertise in energy and maritime technology and thus was able to research and design the ferry locally. The E-ferry Project has received funding from the EU Commission's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 636027.
Ærø is currently developing two new electric ferries for the Ærøskøbing-Svendborg route.