NOT SO GREEN
China, already the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market, is now using
battery power to fuel cargo shipping as well.
A Chinese company has built a 2,000 metric-ton (2,204 tons) all-electric
cargo ship, which was launched from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou
in mid-November, according to state-run newspaper People’s Daily.
The 70-meter long (229 feet) and 14-meter wide (45 feet) ship is equipped
with over 1,000 lithium batteries, with a total capacity of 2,400
kilowatt-hours. By comparison, Tesla’s Model X is equipped with a 100-kWh
battery that allows it to drive nearly 570 kilometers (350 miles).
The vessel, designed for inland waterway transport, will have a pilot
shipping voyage next month, and be put into commercial use early next year.
It will travel a fixed route on one of the main waterways of southern
Chinathe Pearl Riverand will transport coal to a local power plant,
according to state news portal Chinanews (link in Chinese). The ship is
able to carry 2,100 metric tons (2,314 tons) of coal, according to Huang
Jialin, chairman of the ship’s design firm, Hangzhou Modern Ship Design &
Research Co., which designed and built the ship. It took a little over a
year from conception through research and construction, he said. Guangzhou
Shipyard International invested in the vessel.
The ship can travel up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) before being recharged
again, which takes two hours, about the same amount of time required to
unload cargo, Huang told Quartz. The battery-run ship will also be cheaper
to operate than regular cargo vessels, he says. He expects the batteries to
last around five years.
Professor Lai Kee-hung, who studies logistics and sustainability issues at
the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said it was a breakthrough to have an
electricity-driven ship, in terms of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases
and pollution. Cargo shipping is highly polluting, since most cargo ships
currently rely on high-sulfur heavy fuel oil. Global trade is only expected
to lead emissions from this sector to rise. A single large cargo ship can
produce the equivalent in emissions of millions of cars.
But challenges remain, Lai told Quartz in an email. For example, there are
technical hurdles such as ensuring the stability of the power system, a
requirement for a long-haul vessel.
Other nations are also planning to power their cargo and passenger
behemoths with electricity. In July, Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten said
it was investing in ships with a hybrid engine to sail in the Arctic and
Antarctic. The company expects the first ship to be delivered as soon as
next year. In May, another Norwegian company, Yara International, announced
that it was developing an autonomous, battery-powered ship to be fully
self-driven in 2020.