Hurtigruten, the Norwegian coastal cruise company, is building what might be called the Prius of the Sea: two 550-passenger liners that will be equipped with hybrid diesel electric engines and the possibility of conversion to all electric in the future.
The first ship, being built for delivery in 2018, has a propulsion system similar to a hybrid car, with both a diesel-burning engine and an auxiliary electric engine that supplements it and can power the ship on its own for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.
The second ship's hybrid and electric systems will be even more advanced, and will allow longer periods of all-electric operation. Exactly how much will be determined by technology developments while the ships are being built; if powerful enough batteries to allow extended all-electric are available by then, they will be installed in the second ship before it starts service in 2019.
Both ships are designed to allow retro-fitting of more advanced technology as it develops, especially for ecologically vulnerable environments such as Norway's fjords. “The future of shipping is, without a doubt, silent and emission free,” said CEO of Hurtigruten, Daniel Skjelda. “We will use our new expeditionary ships as groundbreakers for this new technology and show the world that hybrid propulsion on large ships is possible.”