Fal River

Hybrid technology cuts emissions on passenger ferries in Cornwall.

A cutting edge ‘green’ hybrid-engined ferry has been developed, trialled and successfully operated commercially on the River Fal, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Fal River Cornwall (Cornwall Ferries Ltd) have put their classic wooden ferry “Kingsley II”, that was originally built in 1934 by Percy Mitchell in South Cornwall at the disposal of a team of expert engineers from REAP Systems as the “test bed” for the new electric and diesel hybrid engine. This is the first hybrid diesel electric engine retro installed on a passenger ferry of this scale in the UK and the scope for transforming emissions on all rivers, waterways and coastal traffic around the UK is huge.

The G7 meeting has as one of its top priorities the discussion of the Climate Emergency and agreeing actions to reduce carbon emissions preparing for COP26 later this year in Glasgow. Here in Cornwall, a small family-owned ferry company, Fal River Cornwall has been active with worldwide experts in test bedding clean maritime propulsion systems and other green initiatives which can have significant global impacts to reduce emissions in the marine sector.

The most recent and exciting activity is the launch of the Hybrid Electric Passenger Ferry – the ‘Kingsley II’ (Full project name “HEVIMA”  Hybrid Electrical Vessel propulsion with Integrated Motor Assist) in 2019. A cutting edge development in reducing emissions from small vessels which has transferable technology to address maritime pollution on a huge scale worldwide.

Our partners in HEVIMA include many of the leading names in British marine research and development REAP Systems,  Babcock International, Lloyds Register, Marine South East,  Southampton University, Mainstay Marine and Innovate UK. But also the project involved an array of leading international component suppliers and how apt that many of these critical component suppliers are drawn from the G7 countries – a metaphor for the cooperation that is required globally to tackle climate change. Critical suppliers include Japanese, South Korean, German, Austrian, British developers and manufacturers.

Yuasa, a world-leading battery manufacturer from Japan worked closely on the project to deliver an innovative, safe and certified battery suitable for marine integration. This achieved approval from Lloyds Register and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency for commercial use.

HEID Antriebstechnik is an Austrian company with 130 years of experience specialising in the development and production of clutches and brakes systems with various designs, adapted to the requirements of our customers. The Kingsley II features a bespoke clutch that connects directly to the engine, saving space.

During the G7 conference, the Kingsley II will be alongside in Falmouth near the International Press Centre with opportunities to book interviews with systems designer Dennis Doerffel of REAP Systems, the principal engineer on the project and Tim Smithies (Chairman of Fal River Cornwall) and other members of the project team.

Following the installation, the ferry was successfully operated in the summer of 2019 along the Fal River between the ports of St Mawes and Trelissick carrying thousands of passengers. The propulsion system operates on electric power in the Special Area of Conservation in St Mawes and in the upper reaches of the Fal and thus reduces carbon emissions and also noise pollution – improving passenger enjoyment.

Chairman of Fal River Cornwall Tim Smithies said “We have found passengers enjoyed the quieter engine operation and also were fascinated by these steps we are taking to address the UK zero-carbon goals in the marine sector.  It’s also been great to work alongside engineers to improve the passenger experience on the new passenger service from St Mawes and Trelissick.  We operate in one of  Cornwall’s  Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and where nature and the sea  have such beauty and majesty – we want clean, safe transport systems connecting communities on the river and estuary.”


Further Notes

Gary Mitchell, the son of Percy Mitchell who came on the inaugural trips, said his father would have approved of any innovations on his vessels,  “My father was an innovator in design and was always looking for the opportunity to meet new demands in boat building”.

Cornwall Ferries Ltd which operates on the River Fal and in Falmouth bay under the brand “Fal River” has a strong history in making initiatives in low impact travel. Our aim has been to move visitors and locals out of cars and onto water transport.

Cornwall Ferries Ltd runs a collection of wooden classic ferries (and its sister company the King Harry Ferry Ltd, a ferry bridge between the Roseland and Feock saving thousands of motor miles a year) on the River Fal. These vessels operations and running times can be found here www.falriver.co.uk and vessels are also available for charter for filming and press stories.  


Ryan Watts – Marketing Manager E: ryan@falriver.co.uk Tel: 07545 812415

Further images and information available on request.