Chinese Yard Launches Battery-Powered Coal Carrier

Image via Chinese state media

Published Nov 14, 2017 9:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

On November 12, CSSC subsidiary Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) launched what may be the world's first all-electric, battery-powered inland coal carrier. The 2,000 dwt vessel will carry bulk cargo for up to 40 nm per charge along a stretch of the Pearl River at speeds of up to seven knots – all without generating its own emissions. The vessel began testing on Sunday.

The ship carries lithium ion batteries rated at 2,400 kilowatt-hours, about the same amount as 30 high-end Tesla Model S electric sedans. It recharges in two hours, according to GSI. Chinese media reports and images from the launch indicate that it relies on two Voith-type cycloidial drives for propulsion.  

"As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment. The technology will soon be likely . . . used in passenger or engineering ships," said Huang Jialin, chairman and general manager of naval architecture firm Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research, which designed the vessel. 

According to the general manager of GSI, Chen Ji, the all-electric vessel will be cheaper to operate than a conventional coal carrier, saving money for the operators of coal-fired power plants. "The main cost of the new energy cargo ship depends on how much lithium battery it is equipped with," Chen told China Daily. He added that there are few obstacles to larger vessels with bigger batteries and more deadweight tonnage. 

The impetus for the new vessel comes in part from the region’s electric power plant operator. "The Pearl River Delta water network is [busy] and the high-pollution and high-energy-consuming bulk carriers in inland waterways transport do not meet the development needs of Guangzhou. We hope to make some attempts to upgrade and upgrade inland navigation vessels by using new energy technologies," said Wu Zhulin, chairman of power generation and energy firm Guangzhou Development Group Co.