With two high-profile, fully electric vessel projects represented, Riviera Maritime Media’s webinar ’The all-electric revolution’ explored the current, rapidly evolving state of battery technology and the quickening rate of return on investment
Part of our ongoing series of webinars and the first in Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime Hybrid, Electric and Fuel Cells Webinar Week, the webinar began with in-depth presentations on all-electric vessels and the battery technologies that power them.
Attendees heard from Ellen E-Ferry/Aero Kommune project manager, renewable energy Cecilie Larsen, Navtek Naval Technologies general manager Ferhat Acuner and Corvus Energy chief commercial officer Halvard Hauso.
On the subject of return on investment (ROI), Ms Larsen hinted at promising news from the EU-funded Ellen E-Ferry project.
"Before we started operating the ferry, the assumption was we would have a return on investment within 10 years. And now, we have collected data from the actual operation of the ferry, and I can’t reveal the exact number of years that we expect to have a return on investment... but it is well below 10," she said.
Shortly after the webinar, the Ellen E-Ferry project reported that, after a year of operations and data gathering, analysis allowed the group to conclude that ROI on electric vessels could be recouped in as little as four years from savings on operational expenditure despite the higher initial capital expenditure required.
"Pure electricity is simply the cheapest solution now. Investment costs are still somewhat higher for an electric ferry, but the savings in operation offset investment costs after four to eight years, depending on the conditions, technical and regulatory, that apply to the route," a project statement said.
Looking at a second high-profile example of an entirely different type of all-electric vessel, Mr Acuner said that, after just a short period of operations, the all-electric tugboat Zeetug had drastically lowered operational costs.
"Our calculations are based on tugboat operations, so as we have four or even five very similar diesel-drive [tugboats], we statistically studied [their operational costs] just before the [Zeetug] project was realised, and [have seen] 85% opex savings [with Zeetug]. It is amazing," Mr Acuner said, noting that his team are "in the process of verifying the figure" against data from Zeetug’s first month of operations.
From a manufacturer’s perspective, Mr Hauso stressed the most important decision when considering investment returns and operations is "making sure you select the right battery for your vessel".
"The all-electric revolution is coming to more and more vessel types as we speak. What is important is to be sure you have the right battery for your vessel type. There is no one-size-fits-all battery for your vessel," he said.
There is more to the calculation, as Mr Hauso explained, laying out a set of criteria that, when observed, helps to promote strong returns on investment.
Starting with the operational profile, Mr Hauso’s advice encompassed elements of battery technology, safety, infrastructure, planning, training, taking advantage of funding opportunities and lifecycle management.
With safety paramount, Mr Hauso said that, while flags and class allow multiple battery safety configurations, Corvus’ preference was to build its batteries with the highest possible safety levels in mind.
"The highest safety level is a single-cell passive, thermal runaway isolation within the exhaust system built in to your vessel," he said. "That is the highest possible safety system today, but not all battery systems do that."
Joining Mr Hauso in pointing out the importance of training in safety, operational efficiency and in breaking down misunderstanding and building experience with battery systems, Ms Larsen said the Ellen E-Ferry project ultimately had a strong focus on training.
"It wasn’t part of the plan initially, but it became obvious very soon that we needed to do some training for all crew members," she said. "And, I agree [with Mr Hauso] that it should be everybody on board, regardless of function."
Ms Larsen said the training helped, through familiarisation with the technology, to alleviate some of the crew’s anxieties of working on board the unfamiliar fully electric vessel.
"Moreover, we also use the courses to educate shipowners and crew members from diesel ships [who] might be interested in electric operation," she said. "And it has helped break down some of the barriers you naturally have." Among those barriers, she said, are "It is a bigger investment, can that actually pay off? Is it safe? And how does it work?"
Ultimately, the panellists agreed, with return on investment times shortening rapidly, the calculation was working strongly in favour of electric vessel technologies. Ms Larsen called for disseminating information to break down barriers, Mr Acuner said the revolution has begun and Mr Hauso said the most important thing to remember is to choose your battery wisely.
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For full poll results from the webinar, please scroll down.
(From left to right) Ellen E-Ferry/Aero Kommune project manager, renewable energy Cecilie Larsen, Corvus Energy chief commercial officer Halvard Hauso, and Navtek Naval Technologies general manager Ferhat Acuner