Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc has begun offering its own battery-powered ship engines in a move that signals the gathering momentum behind a push toward hybrid and ultimately all-electric vessels.
While maritime demand for lithium-ion batteries is focused on providing top-up power for traditional diesel and gas-turbine ships, the technology could propel fully electric craft over a limited range, according to Rolls, which previously sourced such equipment from third-party providers. Branded SAVe Energy, the new system will be delivered from the group’s marine arm in Bergen, Norway.
In hybrid mode the batteries will kick in to provide additional propulsion on vessels spanning ferries to trawlers when a conventional engine is operating at peak thrust, London-based Rolls said. They can also power “hotel” functions of energy-hungry cruise ships, such as lighting and kitchens, and in all-electric mode will slash emissions in sensitive seas such as the Arctic Ocean.
Fully electric ships, like autos, have struggled to penetrate major markets because of their limited battery capacity and a lack of charging infrastructure. Norway has led the way, with the Ampere ferry transporting up to 120 cars across the country’s deepest fjord and Kongsberg Gruppen ASA — which is buying Rolls’s marine arm — developing an electric container ship to carry fertilizer 37 miles from a production facility to the port of Larvik.
By Áine Quinn