Vessev has launched its VS-9 electric hydrofoil ferry in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The firm claims it will be the first fully electric hydrofoil craft to be used solely for tourism.

The first operator will be Fullers360, which runs Auckland Harbour area ferry services, including to the popular tourist destination Waiheke Island. The service will begin once the vessel achieves full certification. The companies expect that to happen in 2024.

Formally known as Seachange, Vessev said the hydrofoil technology on the vessel was developed using the same techniques used by “winning America’s Cup teams” to increase efficient systems.

“To our knowledge, the VS-9 will be the only certified passenger electric hydrofoiling vessel to utilise this technology. We use techniques similar to America’s Cup vessels which provide very high control authority when compared to other systems. That means we can handle more wind and bigger seas. The system is more difficult to engineer up-front, but results in a very performant vessel that is both more capable and more efficient.” explained Vessev CEO Eric Laakmann.

The nine metre VS-9 has capacity for up to 10 passengers and can travel at 25 knots for a range of 50 nautical miles (57 miles/92.6km).

“Our partnership integrates New Zealand’s largest ferry transport and tourism operator with one of the country’s foremost sustainable marine technology providers. At Vessev, our ethos of ‘engineered for safety’, ‘built to last’ and ‘impact through performance’ is vital, and that’s exactly what the VS-9 delivers,” added Laakmann.

The foils used will not only increase efficiency (Vessev said the craft will cut energy usage by 95%), the developers say they will improve the passenger ride experience significantly in full hydrofoil mode.

“Traditionally, larger vessels are required to deliver a comfortable passenger experience as they can handle the impact of waves and wake. By flying above the waves the VS-9 delivers a large vessel experience on an agile platform that can be berthed and charged in nearly any marina,” Laakman said.

For Fullers360 the comfort is a bonus, but the potential for transition to fully-electric ferries is crucial.

“It’s our intention for Fullers360 to be 100% electric or hydrogen operated by 2040 and foiling is absolutely a part of that vision for us. The establishment of NetZero Maritime [a division within Fuller360] has enabled us to dedicate a team to enabling zero emissions projects with the VS-9 being the first fully electric passenger vessel to operate in Auckland,” CEO Mike Horne said.

The cost-benefit is also attractive for operators. Vessev said its testing had shown the fully-electric ferry is 25% cheaper to fuel than its petrol-powered equivalent.
Although the vessel is modest in its size and range, Laakman said its scalability was already on the horizon.

“The benefits of the VS-9 scale up to larger vessels. We are already working to develop the VS-18, a 100-passenger vessel using the same technology and design of the VS-9, which will have additional seakeeping capability and unlock even more opportunities,” he said.

VS-9 specifications

●       Length:        8.95m

●       Weight:        4 tonnes fully loaded

●       Power:         Battery electric

●       Capacity:     10 passengers

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●       Crew:           1 skipper

●       Top speed:  30 knots, 55km

●       Cruise speed:  25 knots

●       Range:        Up to 50 nautical miles at 25 knots

●       Charging:    Up to 90kW