Canadian battery producer Shift Clean Energy (Shift) has joined forces with Norwegian propulsion system developer STADT in a bid to electrify global shipping.
Brent Perry, CEO at Shift commented, “Partnerships like these are essential for the decarbonisation of the marine transport industry.”
Hallvard Slettevoll, CEO at STADT, added: “We are ecstatic to have formed this partnership with Shift, as pioneers in our own fields our complementary technologies will push forward the electrification of the shipping industry.”
Shift is a supplier of clean energy solutions to the marine market and beyond and is responsible for some of the first electrified vessels in the market, including the first electric ferry in southern Europe in Aveiro, Portugal, and a pilot program to electrify harbour vessels in Singapore.
In the future fuel debate, batteries have often been dismissed as merely a possible shortsea option, unable to have the requisite power for transoceanic voyages. Rapid recent tech developments are forcing a rethink on the potential of batteries.
According to a recent report, penned by three scientists from Berkeley in California, the electrification of container vessels is more economical on voyages of up to 5,000 km and three to five times more efficient than e-fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia.
Over 40% of global containership traffic could be electrified cost-effectively with current technology, the study claims.
Minimal carrying capacity must be repurposed to house the battery system for most ship size classes along short to medium-length routes, the study claims.
A 220MW charger could charge a 7,650 teu containership working regional trades in 24 hours. For longer voyages requiring larger battery capacities, the authors of the study suggest offshore charging infrastructure could be strategically located in global shipping chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Panama Canal and the Strait of Malacca, where ships regularly queue for days awaiting passage.
The primary constraint for cost parity of battery-electric ships with ICE ships over longer ranges is the battery cost. Battery prices need to reach $20 kWh for a 10,000 km range battery-electric ship capable of crossing the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean to be cost-effective without recharging. Current commercial lithium battery technologies, and emerging technologies such as solid-state batteries, are not projected to decline to this extent given the cost of the materials used in these batteries. However, battery technologies designed for long duration storage applications from low-cost materials are under development. Iron–air batteries, for example, offer comparable energy density at a fraction of the cost of current lithium-ion batteries and may offer pathways for cost-competitive long-range shipping, the report predicted.
Critics regularly highlight the explosive dangers of batteries. This is something that is being addressed too. Synergy Marine, a subsidiary of Singapore’s Synergy Group, has partnered up recently with US-based battery developer Alsym Energy and Japanese owner Nissen Kaiun to roll out non-flammable rechargeable batteries for the shipping sector.
A fully electric 80 m long containership, the Yara Birkeland, has begun autonomous operations in Norway. Similar battery-electric vessel projects are underway in Japan, China, Sweden and Denmark.
Moreover, what goes for containerships goes better for bulk carriers with lower horsepower, more displacement available, and longer turn rounds for recharging.