The good news is that China has launched the first fully electric cargo ship. According to China Daily, the 230-foot-long ship is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery that stores enough electrical energy to carry 2,200 tons of cargo over a distance of 50 miles on a single charge at a maximum speed of 8 miles per hour. The time to recharge the battery is 2 hours, which is approximately the time needed to unload the ship at its destination.
“As the boat is completely electric, it does not pose any threat to the environment. The technology will likely soon be… used in passenger ships, ”said Huang Jialin, president and CEO of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, which designed the electric ship. The ship’s battery is made up of 1,000 individual lithium-ion battery packs. Adding enough power to carry more charge is simply a matter of adding more battery packs.
The ship was built at the Guangzhou Shipyard International shipyard in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, which is located on the Pearl River north of Hong Kong. The shipyard is a 100% subsidiary of CSSC Offshore & Marine Engineering Company. CSSC stands for China State Shipbuilding Corporation.
The new ship has two main benefits. First of all, it will not emit carbon emissions while it is running. Cargo ships tend to be some of the biggest sources of CO2 pollution in the entire transportation sector. Second, it will reduce the cost of transporting bulk cargo, as the price of electricity is lower than that of diesel.
Here’s the bad news : The all-electric freighter will be used primarily to transport coal to generating stations along the Pearl River. So, imagine this: the world now has a ship that arguably emits nothing, yet is powered by electricity generated by burning coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in terms of carbon emissions, and is used for transport cheaper coal.
This type of boat takes into account the harmony between human beings and nature and can protect water quality and marine life, and should be copied by other boats that navigate local rivers, ”says Chinese environmentalist Wang Yongchen. That’s right. The same technology that makes the new electric harvester possible can also be used to power ferries, container ships or other vessels used for short sea coastal shipping.
The Chinese are to be applauded for advancing the idea of electric propulsion for ships, but using clean energy to reduce the cost of transporting coal to power plants illustrates how far the world has to go before a emission-free world becomes a realistic possibility.