The latest innovations in electric and hybrid systems and how they can deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption and emissions
New solutions to drive down battery costs and opportunities to future-proof the fleet will boost the uptake of electric propulsion.
These were among the key themes from Hybrid and all-electric: the next steps in electrifying the world’s shipping industry, sponsored by BAE Systems and Wärtsilä, and part of Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime Hybrid, Electric & Fuel Cells Webinar Week.
Wärtsilä director electrical and power systems Torsten Bussow explained there are three reasons why electrification will play a major part in decarbonisation efforts. “If the vessel is connected to a grid in the port, it already profits from green electricity that flows from most grids, so whenever the vessel is on shore… this is an immediate greenhouse gas reduction measure.”
He said the second reason is if you take renewable energy as a source and try to convert the propulsion, the loss from a full electric system is slightly more than 10% which is “far superior to any other propulsion means we have”.
He added, “Every vessel that can electrify, like the shortsea sector, will eventually electrify because the propulsion loss is so little.”
The third reason is the design of the vessel. Mr Bussow said, “Today, the standard method is to look at the operational profile of the vessel and the question for the future is, will the operational profile still remain? There will be different power sources and availability of energy storage systems for fuel cells, green fuels and different fuels in combustion engines… the uncertainty will require a lot of flexibility for newbuilds especially. And electrically enhanced propulsion systems will help to keep that flexibility for the next 25 years of vessel operation.”
He forecast, “The whole propulsion system set up will move away with these changes towards the future from an engine-centric set up towards a software-centred set up and the software at the centre of a modern multi-power source vessel is the energy management system. It uses software to optimise the power demand and power supply of different power sources.”
Meanwhile, Spear Power Systems senior project manager Shaun White explained how the Current Direct project – funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme – intended to electrify inland waterway and coastal shipping through a swappable container waterborne transport battery.
Mr White said, “The widespread adoption of batteries is largely limited by the high cost of the battery system and associated vessel integration. Therefore, new innovative solutions need to be developed to drive down these costs. Additionally, the following challenges need to be overcome to remove today’s barriers to hybridisation and electrification: specific safety equipment and sensors lead to higher capex in the maritime industry compared with other applications like automotive, battery and grid energy storage. The infrastructure for battery charging often requires costly upgrades and more robust, fast chargers are required due to short charging windows for maritime vessels – for example ferries.”
He added, “Specific maritime certification and regulation drives cost; the current low market adoption in the maritime industry is a disincentive for battery manufacturers and producers to create cells optimised for maritime applications.”
Current Direct’s new lithium-ion cell is fully optimised for waterborne transport and is a swappable containerised energy storage system optimised for cost and operation. Mr White added, “We will deliver a standardised shore infrastructure for supporting operational use in ports for charging and discharging, and we will deliver an innovative energy-as-a-service platform to ensure the end user has the clean energy needed at a competitive price comparable to today’s fossil fuel vessels.”
There will also be a battery certification methodology that is standardised to validate and verify safety.
He explained, when an electric vessel arrives at a battery swapping station, instead of connecting to shore-charging infrastructure, the battery swapping provider will swap the discharged factory container with one charged beforehand, consequently the offloaded battery is charged offline.
Pointing out the advantages, Mr White said, “The battery swapping is completed in a very short period and allows the vessel a quick departure from the quayside. The energy-as-a-service platform will provide numerous industry-leading features such as location planning, infrastructure deployment charging strategy and revenue management methodology intended to provide vessel owners with a profitable and sustainable swapping service.”
Current Direct swappable containers can provide 1 MW of power to support the primary propulsion and hotel loads of inland waterway vessels and coastal shipping and enable true zero-emissions operations. A single swappable container will have total installed energy of 3 MWh. The combination of these two centrepieces will significantly reduce the total lifetime cost of waterborne transport batteries by 50% and increase installed energy density by 300% compared with currently available systems, Mr White said in his presentation.
There will be a demonstration to validate the battery and platform in a real environment at the port of Rotterdam.
The Direct Current consortium includes 13 organisations from nine countries. Members of the advisory board include Carnival and Port of Rotterdam.
“Members of the advisory board such as Carnival and Port of Rotterdam have a direct interest in the cost reduction of batteries and electrification and digitalisation of the maritime industry,” said Mr White.
BAE Systems business development manager Europe marine Paul Simavari explained that one of the most important factors in reaching net-zero emissions is an understanding of energy consumption. “Modelling the vessel operational profile with data inputs is key to showing where the wins are and how to benefit,” he said.
“It is crucial the system components are correctly integrated; the performance of the vessel will rely heavily on the ability of the power management system to control and communicate the individual system components… an integrated power management system will ensure efficient transfer of energy from the relevant power source either to the propulsion system or auxiliary power system.”
Mr Simavari said a systems integrator, like BAE Systems, will review a wide range of technical solutions of current and emerging technology and present these alongside the data analysis work.
Highlighting challenges to moving to electrification, he said, “One of major barriers to adoption today is increased capex. The ability to make a project viable and an ongoing success is to carry out the data analysis to prove the system before you install anything.
“Through analysis, the capex and improved opex that supports an improved cost of ownership compared with diesel installation will start to materialise, making it a no brainer to design a new vessel with zero-emissions technology. The optimisation of the operational profile can save more than 20% power demand, reducing capex.”
Mr Simavari said, “These things added together will reduce initial capex cost and support ongoing opex improvement, which will result in strong performance in total cost of ownership compared with the diesel equivalent, which can be more than a 20% saving.”
He warned “Ultimately, everything is going to come down to quality. Quality of analysis, quality of design and quality of components, they add up to a long life, safe operations and unrivalled system performance.”
Mr White said for him, there were three key takeaways. “There is a substantial reduction in the cost of today’s energy storage systems, to be at cost parity with traditional fuel, while simultaneously increasing the performance and market confidence with accelerated electrification, and the market adoption of zero-emissions technology. We believe Current Direct will revolutionise inland waterway and coastal shipping through energy storage innovations to create a clean-energy eco system.”
Current Direct will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable vessel owners to meet their obligations.
Mr Simavari said, “We want to continue to work on our total cost of ownership modelling, which reviews the architectural capability for performance of individual vessels. Hybridisation features most prominently in our projects today; operators want future proofing for full electric and zero emissions, so we stay focused on modular package systems and a modular system approach. Ultimately, we are striving to get to zero emissions and are working hard to do that today.
The webinar’s listeners were asked: One of the biggest challenges for the marine sector reaching zero emissions is infrastructure and the rapid transfer of energy. How do you envisage the transfer of this energy being most successful? The most popular answer, at 58%, was onboard hybrid power generation (diesel, alternative fuel or fuel cell). Next at 28% was shore-based high-power charging systems, followed by swap in/out energy banks at 11%. Just 2% voted for ‘on the run’ river-based high-power charging stations (an energy resupply vessel for example). 1% plumped for ‘operational review’, (an increase in vessel numbers for the same operation to allow for slower transfer of power).
Next, the audience was asked: Installation of electric propulsion systems brings with it several challenges, but what do you think the biggest challenge to adoption is today? 26% voted for lack of infrastructure to support viable adoption. 22% agreed with system complexity and in the field support and the same percentage voted for unclear future development position. 19% agreed with power-to-weight ratio of the installed system. 11% voted for lack of legislation and government guidance and support on future rules (given the long life expectations of a marine vessel).
Asked, The biggest driver motivating our investment strategy is... 54% said fuel/opex savings/ROI, followed by 38% with CII/GHG reduction. 8% voted for EEXI compliance.
Asked, when it comes to our next round of newbuilds or retrofits we are devoting most time to considering... 41% said battery hybrid, 40% said alternative electric propulsion concepts, 12% said shore-power connection and 7% said shaft generator.
The final question: what importance does electrification play in your fleet strategy? Saw 40% vote for both it is central to our strategy and it is under consideration with no decision taken. 10% said it is being piloted. Just 8% said it had been considered but is not for us, and just 2% said it is not under consideration.