What is the 10-questions interview? Regularly, we interview a promising startup or scale-up in the climate & energy tech ecosystem and ask them our 10 questions to showcase their technology, inspire the sector with their ambition and better understand their needs. With our platform (ZERO), we want to put these bold innovators on a pedestal and introduce them to our audience. Do you want to connect with this startup/scale-up, feel free to contact us at email@example.com!
eConowind is a Dutch-based company that is fully dedicated to wind-assisted ship propulsion, offering foldable wind assist units, available in different sizes to drive a mixture of coastal vessels. The installation of these units on the vessels results in emission reduction, since wind will be used as a renewable energy source. The company is related to HCP and Conoship International, a ship design and engineering office in Groningen. In this interview, Frank Nieuwenhuis (CEO of eConowind) will tell us more about the company.
My name is Frank Nieuwenhuis and I am a mechanical engineer by profession, and currently CEO at eConowind. I design products and deliver these to different markets. For most of my life, I worked in the medical field making treadmills in physiotherapy. I sold my medical company to make a shift towards the technical field, which I already aspired to do for quite some time. Then I got the chance to pick up and develop various ideas.
Approximately 6 years ago, I met Guus van der Bles during a sailing race (he won big time…). He introduced me to Conoship International, a ship design office, that requested help for developing wind-assisted ship propulsion, which is now eConowind. The energy transition sector seemed like an area with significant growth opportunities and niches, so that’s where I went. Nowadays, Conoship is still a limited shareholder and works together closely with eConowind.
Having work that matters within my abilities. I can build things and so, I like to design and build things that matter. I see the energy transition in the coming years as a major challenge.
Wind assist units: big airplane-kind wings that function as a sail. By doing so, the engine power can be reduced, hence saving fuel.
The concept is that the wings contain a suction element, which results in a higher thrust force, resulting in fuel reduction. Besides that, the wings are foldable, so they can be stored in case of unfavourable wind, docking situations or bridges.
We are scaling up after making 6 units as prototypes, research units etc. Now, we offer a relatively standard unit and these seem to work for many customers in shipping.
We are a group of young people eager to decarbonize shipping. The R&D of the basis of the wing is finished, so at this moment we are focused on scaling up. Although, we are still working a lot on the R&D of the control of the units to adjust itself better and thus deliver more power in all situations.
It is a huge challenge, hence it is up to very big companies to do so, since they can make the biggest impact. However, such companies also tend to be more reserved compared to smaller companies when it comes to decision-making.
Innovations tend to come from smaller companies, focusing on niches first. We aim to contribute by focusing on the reduction of use of fuel in shipping, as we can do this step-by-step, increasing size of units and increasing numbers. We first worked together with a few smaller family businesses and are now slowly seeing requests coming from larger companies, and hope to be able to make a bigger impact by growing our business.
Most shipowners are quite large organizations, so things happen by cooperations of several departments.
All together, they get quite “margin-minded”. Money and risks are important as this is how things are run.
In smaller, family-owned businesses, all decisions are made quicker.
We got the first few “new-build” orders. This means we get out of the “let’s try” into the “we need to do this” phase.
People * time = result. The wheel is slowly picking up momentum, so time will do the trick.
Risk-money has been an issue. After some time, things are well-known, so risk goes down, and more money starts to come in.
Network indeed, now bigger companies have to start picking up the solutions.
With this, some more finance will be needed.
Companies that come to mind are:
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