Hybrid technology – not just for cars and buses

Battery technology is well established in the car world.  The Toyota Prius was the first mass produced hybrid and more than 6 million of the part battery, part petrol powered vehicles have gone on to be driven on the world’s roads.  Tesla has become the posterchild for electric vehicles and all the major manufacturers now offer hybrid or battery options.  This ‘hybridisation’ has also spread to the world of shipping.

“It uses the same technologies as electric cars and electric buses, so there is your volume,” says Jorulf Nergard, Vice President of Marine at ABB. Talking about why hybrid and energy storage solutions are becoming more important to the maritime section, he said the technology is developing rapidly because of the millions of batteries being demanded by car manufacturers and  solar and wind power grids.  By 2020 the energy density of batteries is predicted to double which will dramatically improve their viability for shipping.

Battery-ferry-webThe Norwegian government has taken the lead on trying to implement green solutions for passenger ferries, aiming to introduce zero emission vessels across the country by the beginning of the next decade. “Norway has the chance to be a world leader in this field,” says Nergard.  The country’s fjords and the relatively short distances between stops makes Norway an ideal country for battery powered ferries, although some journeys may be out of reach for the current technology.  

When comparing the daily potential environmental impact of a pure electric ferry compared to a diesel powered vessel for a country like Norway, which has a high percentage of energy from renewable sources, it is the equivalent of removing thousands of cars from the road.

Whilst Norway has taken the lead on ferries, according to Nergard, other sectors are also taking a close look at hybrid technologies. “The next generation of drill ship will almost certainly have some sort of battery support,” says Nergard.  He believes these vessels will benefit from having energy storage solutions as a peak shaving or backup power source, important in the case of a blackout during a drilling operation which can lead to huge costs if aborted.  Tugs, which need short sharp bursts of high power, are also being increasingly talked about as hybrid vessels due to the fact they often function in ports close to populated areas. 

With cost efficiency and environmental regulations playing a greater role in the thought process of ship owners the battery revolution which started on the road looks set to play an increasingly important role on the seas.
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