The LibelluleMaking the transition to electric
The massive transition to full-fleet electrification is well underway for the Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy. The goal is for every boat in the fleet to run on electric power by spring/summer 2024.
After the Savoie, the legendary Libellule will proudly take its rightful place along Napolean III wharf between now and the end of September.
When the electrification project began, Philippe Gausset, president of the Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy, explained, “Before we change the motors, we need to ensure that our boats are as energy efficient as possible. This is why every boat that needed it received a complete overhaul.“
Follow us along the gangway for a behind the scenes look at this truly extraordinary work site.
© Gaëlle Tagliabue / The Libellule and Philippe Gausset
An electrifying transformation
Renovations on the Libellule, which figures among Annecy’s most well-known icons, began last October. The extraordinary 400 ton, 60-meter long and 12-meter wide boat has received a complete overhaul, commensurate with the Libellule’s stature and fame. Only by exploring the inner workings of this amazing vessel did we see the true extent of the transformation.
And viewed from below, already completely repainted, this floating beast looks great.
© Gaëlle Tagliabue / A new look for The Libellule
All of the piping has been redone, with every pipe wrapped in insulation and heating wires to keep from freezing. Propeller shafts and rudder axle have been replaced. The electrical system was completely disassembled, redesigned, and optimized. All of the windows were replaced with double pane windows and the boat’s insulation has been completely redone. All of this work reduced the ship’s weight by approximately 15 tons.
Renovating the Libellule also offered the chance to improve the layout. In the main dining and reception hall, the newly modified stage area allows for more tables, and the anchors are now visible for passengers to see and admire. The interior color scheme has changed to blue and gray hues. On the main bridge, the repainted light-gray floor reduces glare and maximizes thermal insulation.
Electrification for the long haul
For the technical renovations, two 15m² holds, one port side and one starboard, house all of the batteries. Sixty-four racks of batteries on each side. This translates to 800 volts and 600KM for the entire setup. The batteries are made in France and have an eight-year warranty, but since technology for electric powered transport is currently evolving fast, Philippe Gausset hopes that new developments will increase the system’s longevity in the future. He explains, “For example, in 2019, when I started studying the possibility of electrifying the fleet, we needed to allow for 19 tons of batteries, and today, the same amount of power only weighs 3.5 tons. This means that electric power for transport is currently making progress by leaps and bounds.“
All work on the new electric systems is done by companies based in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region.
© Gaëlle Tagliabue / New battery room
In addition, a brand new climate control system was installed in the holds to maintain a constant temperature of 22°C and maximize battery life of the entire installation. To reduce the fire hazard as much as possible, a fire protection coating has been applied to the walls, ceiling, and floors in each hold, isolating them from the rest of the boat for at least an hour in the event of a fire, and a sprinkler system will flood the holds with water if the need arises.
To avoid overloading the power grid, especially during the summer high-season, the batteries will recharge at a slow-charge station when docked along the Thiou River.
A fleet on the move
The overhaul will have taken approximately a year when finished, and falls completely in line with the reputation of clean and environmentally responsible boating on Lake Annecy. Once the entire fleet Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy operates solely on electric power, the carbon footprint will drop from 1800 to just 30 tons of CO2 emissions per year. The electric motors provide a guaranteed 55,000 operating hours compared to only 25,000 hours for the combustion engines, once again increasing the longevity of each boat.
This very ambitious project cost 6 million euros for the fleet on Lake Annecy and almost 3 million euros for the Libellule alone. Annecy, along with the Aix-les-Bains based fleet, have earned a pat on the back, as they are at the forefront of electric boating with a total of 10 electric-powered vessels, 2 more than Paris, which only has 8 as of today; a small but noteworthy Savoyard success.
© Gaëlle Tagliabue / An ambitious one-year project
Keeping our water clean
As early as this fall, locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy seeing the iconic Libellule floating on the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Annecy. And for those lucky enough to set foot onboard, another improvement will definitely convince of the project’s overall success: the silence. At the water’s surface, the Libellule glides along without noticeable noise, except perhaps for the quiet lull created by its wake.
For this project to decarbonize their entire business, the Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy received financial aid from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, the national government through Voies Navigables de France (“Navigable Waterways in France”), as well as the Fonds Air Entreprises fund put together by the Haute-Savoie department and Grand Annecy).
© Compagnie des Bateaux – Fou d'Images / The iconic Libellule on lake Annecy
- © Monica Dalmasso
Journalist: Gaëlle Tagliabue
Translation: Darin Reisman