North American vessel owners are considering hybrid and electric propulsion for their newbuilds and existing vessels, but capex costs remain a major concern for many
Those were some of the key takeaways at the ’Business Case for Hybrid and Electric Technology in North America’ webinar, part of Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime Hybrid, Electric and Fuel Cells Webinar Week. The event was produced with the support of Navtek Naval Technologies and ABB.
Panellists included HMS Ferries Inc technical director Daniel Frank, ABB Marine & Ports technical solutions manager Peter Bryn, Navtek Naval Technologies general manager Ferhat Acuner and Glosten senior naval architect Will Moon.
Mr Acuner highlighted Navtek’s success in developing the world’s first zero-emissions, all-electric harbour tug Gisas Power, which went into service in the shipyard zone in the Port of Istanbul earlier this year. Compared to a 30-tonne bollard pull diesel tug, Navtek estimates Gisas Power cuts CO2 emissions by 210 tonnes and NOx emissions by 9 tonnes annually. "Be part of the solution, not part of the pollution," Mr Acuner said.
Building on those environmental credentials, the Turkish naval architectural firm now has several zero-emissions electric vessel projects underway, designing and building two additional Zeetugs, a rubbish and sewage collection tanker and a surface collection vessel. Research and development are also ongoing into other vessel types.
In order to maximise the efficiency of a Zeetug, Mr Acuner emphasised the need to adjust the technical requirements of the vessel based on the existing operational profile of a client. When creating that profile, the designer needs to ask ‘How often do the tugs operate?’ ‘What are the power requirements for the vessel’s different operations?’ ‘What are the distances sailed?’ and ‘How long does each operation take?’ Once this profile is built, he said, the vessel could be customised to meet the owner’s needs.
Agreeing with Mr Acuner, Mr Moon said a big driver of hybrid and electric propulsion is reduced operating costs. Mr Moon’s firm, Glosten, is supporting Washington State Ferries’ conversion of its Jumbo Mark II ferries to electric power. He said using emissions-reducing technologies such as hybrid and electric propulsion could also attract support from federal or state grants. He added that the quieter and lower vibration levels are attractive, particularly for excursion or research vessels.
Still, Mr Moon, said upfront capital costs and more complex engineering remain stumbling blocks. “You pay more upfront,” said Mr Bryn, “but you have a good payoff over the lifetime of the vessel.”
ABB supported development of the first newbuild all-electric passenger vessel, Nikola Tesla, and its sister vessel, James V Glynn in the US. Following US Coast Guard approval, both vessels are expected to enter service for American tour boat operator Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. Mr Bryn said the capital costs for hybrid and electric vessels will come down as the industry moves away from bespoke solutions.
Mr Frank also believed strongly in the opex savings generated by operating an all-electric vessel as compared to a diesel-geared vessel. HMS operates the Gee’s Bend ferry, the first all-electric ferry in the US, for the State of Alabama. Mr Frank pointed out that there was less maintenance over the lifetime of a battery than there is for a diesel over the same period.
Polls bear out high degree of interest
Polls taken during the webinar clearly showed the high degree of interest among delegates in fitting their vessel with hybrid or electric power. Some 52% of respondents said they were ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to repower or build a new hybrid or electric vessel in the next few years. And, in even more resounding fashion, 75% said that their organisation was currently discussing hybrid and electric propulsion.
Their enthusiasm, however, is tempered by several concerns, with 40% saying that capital costs were too high. Among the other concerns cited by respondents were unrealised operational cost savings (16%), system complexity and maintenance (16%), schedule and budget overruns (3%) and technical maturity of equipment (25%).
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