As observed in ‘analysing 60 startups on decarbonisation in shipping’, multiple solutions play an important role in creating a shipping industry that is truly sustainable. The industry needs all feasible solutions to make a significant impact. A cooperation between Platform Zero and Maritime Battery Forum resulted in the identification of the opportunities, the inhibitors, and the latest developments of electrification in the shipping industry. Maritime Battery Forum is a non-profit organisation promoting batteries in the maritime industry through sharing knowledge and information and by building a global network of maritime battery enablers.
The large-scale use of batteries in the shipping industry is gaining traction. Whereas in 2016 only 106 ships worldwide were electrified, currently 552 electrified ships are in operation and 194 ships are on order as stated by the Maritime Battery Forum’s Ship Register. Amongst these are pure electric, plug-in hybrids and hybrids. Interestingly, 34% of these operating ships are based in Norway.
Electrification in shipping is not a matured market. The shipping industry has been known to change slowly. However, the tide is now changing rapidly, resulting in large-scale opportunities. Because this change is still early stage, many of the companies that focus on this subject are start-ups. Simultaneously it has been identified that fully electrifying cargo ships is characterized as a “wicked problem”. The technology is there, it is possible to make ships fully electric, however, one party cannot carry the costs of a systems change alone. As was also mentioned in the report ‘Decarbonizing shipping: All hands on Deck’ of Deloitte.
There are currently three main obstacles identified limiting the growth of electrification in shipping.
There is a big variation between the type of ships and their eventual end purpose. Obviously, this also means different ships have different electrification needs. When we look at the choice of batteries in shipping, we see the following developments. Lithium-ion batteries are still the most dominant. However, within lithium-ion batteries, major diversification is happening. Formerly standardized types dominated the market which inhibited the use of batteries for many ships. Currently, there are batteries, that are produced as cheaply as possible, selected on its weight, chosen on the number of cycles they can perform, or designed specifically to recharge as fast as possible. As was stated lithium-ion batteries are still dominant. However, extensive research is being done on the development of different types of batteries that can compete with lithium-ion in the near future. E.g. sodium-ion batteries unfortunately for now these batteries have a lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries.
‘The performance of lithium ion at a fraction of the cost and risk’ The American battery developer Alsym Energy developed a battery which eliminates the use of lithium and cobalt while replacing this with readily available materials. This solves multiple problems associated with lithium-ion batteries. Definitely a company that sparks attention.
Accure developed advanced battery analytics software which can be used for the maritime sector, automotive industry, and grid storage. It maps a battery’s safety, reliability, and lifetime through cloud computing. A digital solution very relevant for the durability and adoptability in the maritime sector
Beyonder develops lithium-ion batteries as sustainable as possible. They ensure this by changing Norwegian sawdust into battery cell technology. The company tries to eliminate negative externalities related to the production of conventional lithium-ion batteries, making them a company very relevant for the future.
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