Having assembled important funding (regional, national and european) Venice is indeed en route to electrify its motorised fleet. Its transport company, ACTV has now commissioned the La Spezia shipyard, SIMAN (Società Industriale Meccanica ed Affini Navale) to build a new fleet of 12 hybrid-electric vaporetti buses, while existing vaporetti will also be retro-fitted at Alberto Toffolo’s shipyard in Giudecca using Vulkan diesel-electric motors. In addition, a diesel-electric bi-directional ferry with azimuth thrusters is out for tender. The existing ferryboats Pellestrina rated load per vehicle 35 tons and the Marco Polo (rated load per vehicle 55 tons) will also be retro-fitted.
In San Giovanni in Marignano, Rimini, a city south of Venice on the Adriatic coast, Engineer Massimo Semprini and a team at dredging boat manufacturer Italdraghe, have collaborated with Torqeedo-Deutz in Germany to produce an outboard, retractable electric propulsion system for commercial and working vessels in inland and urban waterways such as Venice. The system combines Italdraghe’s proven and extensively field-tested steerable azimuth thrusters and Torqeedo’s 50 kW Deep Blue high-voltage lithium-based electric power system.
VERITAS, the municipal garbage collection company, have been testing their 12m MB 315 Hybrid, built by Advanced Marine Composites. It is powered by batteries (and by a biodiesel generator for longer journeys) which, instead of using oil, is powered by the electrolysis of sea water. Since July last year, MB 315 has been serving as a MiniCentre for the selective collecting of hazardous municipal waste : cooking oil, empty paint cans, exhausted batteries, small appliances, light bulbs and LEDs . Another prototype, the Giorgione Full Electric System, has been thoroughly trialled. While an additional 5 are under construction and should be available by this summer, if the results prove good, VERITAS’s entire 80-boat fleet will be converted.
This fleet will be among those who use a growing network of charging stations developed by Venice-based e-concept whose smart solution is to hide their E-Docks inside mooring poles. E-Docks are to be set up in Venice’s historic centre, in both Campo Santi Apostoli and in Calle del Ridotto in front of Cà Giustinian. E-concept has now partnered with the UK Aqua Super power for their fast recharging units, the latter in collaboration with Tritium, a global leader in DC fast-charging hardware. They plan to sell at least 200 units , both in HPC (up to 150 KW) and in quick-charge (up to 22 KW) in 2022. In August 2021, e-concept, already in partnerships with Enel X and Cofidindustria Venezia carried out a capital increase of € 38,000 thanks to the entry of 5 new investors. The collaboration with the Municipality of Venice continues in the perspective described by the ICC - Intelligent City Challenge - project of proceeding with the creation of the public and private network for electric recharging of pleasure boats, work boats and for passenger transport.
At the same time, ACTV is working with the State Administration to enable hydrogen-fuelled vessels to be permitted to voyage in Italian waters. These would use green hydrogen manufactured from algae at a new factory in Marghera.
Alilaguna, the private company for passenger transport, was among the first, together with the Vizianello shipyard, to study the application of hybrid systems to their units, parallel systems, in line, in series and even Hepic a hydrogen version using Fuel Cell, a version still awaiting approval. Vizianello has also combined with Simrad Yachting, a leading brand in nautical electronics to retrofit the Amore, the most famous of the Vizianello water limousines. Amore essentially comprises a diesel engine that can run independently or in combination with a 30kW electric motor and a 23kW battery pack. In fully electric mode, the boat has an autonomy of about one hour at 6-7 knots which allows navigation with zero emissions and no noise, ideal for short trips through the Serenissima’s canals.
Apart from Amore, and one-offs developed by the Italian Transfluid which, together with Atella's CMD with its Blue Hybrid System, motorized taxi-type units and operation vessels of the Guardia di Finanza and the naval section of the Carabinieri, one observes reluctance on the part of operators, waiting in turn for the economic and operational concessions promised by the administration. So much so that Mayor Brugnaro who atht Dubai World Fair proposed his city as the World Centre of Sustainability, has been accused of « green washing »
Two companies, on the other hand, are already operating for rental in the lagoon from Classic Boat Venice, on the island of Certosa, which supplies traditional boats such as topette and sampierotte equipped with electric outboards from Torqeedo, to the AQA, in Giudecca at Toffolo Officine, which uses electric hulls of Danish Rand Boats and Slovenian Alfastreet Marine.
At least for small-medium kW power, one has observed a range of inboards and outboards being tested up and down the canals : the German Torqeedo, the Austrian AquaWatt and Aquamot, the Chinese e-propulsion and Parsun, the Japanese Yamaha, the Slovenian Remigo and e-'dyn, the American Flux and Elco, the Korean Electrin, in the Netherlands Spingi and Rime Drive, the Croatian Tema, the Finnish Oceanvolt, not forgetting the Italian Huracan, Transfluid and Mitek.
Last but not least, Il Commandante Pietro Tosi, legendary Venetian campaigner and pioneer of sustainable boats, is already known for his "Cargo 31",and Studio 43, designed specifically for the transport of works of art as it is air-conditioned, also equipped with photovoltaic and electrical panels. Tosi’s latest creation is a rowing/sailing/electric Topetta which he has called « La Veneziana ». Measuring 7.2 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, it has been built in fiberglass with mahogany cladding and deckwork, with sails by Venetian sailmaster Paolo Rusca. Its 70hp Fimea motor is at the centre of the keel with 10 kWh photovoltaic battery.
As a tribute to those who perished from COVID, during the pandemic, artist Livio De Marchi, known as the "Carpenter of Venice”, working with the Consorzio Venezia Sviluppo at the Cantieri Lucchese della Giudecca, has created a giant violin boat, made of oak, mahogany, fir, larch, lime and cherry wood. Last September, the 12m50 Il Violino di Noè (= Noah’s violin) equipped with an electric outboard provided by the local Toffolo boatyard, silently paraded along the Grand Canal. On board, a string quartet played music by local 17th Century composer Vivaldi.
Possible new COVID varants permitting, examples of the above-mentioned electric boats will be seen at the E-Village of the 3rd Salone Nautico this coming June. Last year, some 25 electric boats paraded through the Grand Canal and in front of the Piazza San Marco. Undoubtedly that fleet will be bigger this year. The second running of the E-Regatta will also be held in the Idroscalo and the Arsenale, with the launching of a new circuit monotype, the Yellow Arrow.
Author : Kevin Desmond founded the ngo VeniceAgenda2028.com in 2018.