Ships emit large amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere as they navigate the oceans. According to New Orleans-based startup Fleetzero, they account for 2.2% of global carbon dioxide emissions — about 1 billion tons a year — as well as 15% of nitrogen oxides and 13 percent of sulfur oxides. Fleetzero’s container ship battery replacement program may help electrify shipping, improving ocean pollution from shipping.
Fleetzero has developed a 2 MWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack that fits into a 20-foot by 5-foot container. Load enough containers on a ship (or tow them onto a barge) to complete the sea voyage, then swap them out when they run out, allowing for a fully charged replacement while the ship loads or unloads cargo in port.
The way the shipping industry works today is that huge container ships flood into huge ports. All of these containers — millions of them every month — lead to a massive log of logistics jams that ports have to sort out in order to get them all to the proper freight terminals. Smaller ships can access smaller ports closer to local distributors and retailers.
“With smaller vessels we are able to access ports larger container ships can’t — effectively reducing congestion and delivering goods closer to the end consumer,” the company says. And if you allocate the same battery capacity as a larger ship needs to several smaller ships and add more possible stops, suddenly the battery capacity required to move the same amount of cargo is significantly less.
Since the batteries are packaged in containers, they can be easily loaded and unloaded using existing cargo cranes. They can be charged in ports or trucked to charging stations inland, so the existing power infrastructure is more robust. Fleetzero said its container battery system has received ABS approval for marine propulsion.
Smaller ships travel at half the speed of 10,000 large container ships. The payoff is direct delivery to smaller ports closer to the final consumer. Time is money, and if you can get your product to market faster by unloading in a port 100 miles away instead of 1,000 miles away, shipping on water is much more efficient.
No Cost Increase
Additionally, diesel engines are prohibitively expensive to maintain and repair, and fuel costs can vary significantly over time, making it difficult to calculate how much to charge customers to transport their goods. Relatively speaking, electricity costs are lower and maintenance costs are much lower. Therefore, the realization of the electrification of shipping can not only get rid of all the pollution caused by the shipping industry every year but also reduce the total operating cost for businesses.
Not only that, those gigantic gigantic ships are only made in a few places in the world. Building smaller ships could revive the U.S. shipbuilding industry, increasing employment opportunities in communities near shipyards. There’s a lot to like about the industry as a whole.
Fleetzero has hardened its battery packs to withstand the rigors of shipping at sea. It has raised millions of dollars from early investors. The task now is to load a bunch of these battery packs onto a 300-foot boat and test the entire shipping and replacement process from start to finish.