Transitioning to electric propulsion systems in the marine sector poses unique challenges due to the scale and energy demands of vessels, as reported by IDTechEx.
While land-based electric vehicles are predominantly shifting to battery-electric systems, the maritime industry requires diverse solutions such as Li-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, green ammonia, green hydrogen, and e-fuels to reduce emissions. This transition encompasses electric ferries, cargo and container ships, Ro-Ro vessels, cruise ships, OSVs, tugboats, and recreational boats across different power classes. Additionally, primary interviews with suppliers contribute to understanding the advancements in Li-ion battery systems and electric propulsion systems for marine applications.
Adopting electric & hybrid systems
Electric and hybrid propulsion systems have predominantly been adopted in the recreational boating, ferry, and short-sea or inland vessel segments of the marine industry. These systems have gained traction due to the smaller vessel sizes and well-defined operational profiles that allow for convenient opportunity charging. In larger deep-sea vessels, the adoption of electric and hybrid propulsion systems is slower but gradually picking up pace, driven by stringent global emissions regulations imposed by the IMO and EU. Initially focusing on reducing NOx, SOx, and PM emissions, these regulations now prioritize carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The maritime sector faces mounting pressure to decarbonize and align with broader climate goals. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, multiple approaches are emerging as potential solutions, often referred to as ‘multiple silver bullets,’ targeting specific subsectors. For instance, pure electric ferries and tugboats rely on battery systems, while hybrid sea-going vessels combine green fuels with batteries for enhanced performance and reduced emissions.
Enhancing fuel economy
Pure battery-electric ships offer the most effective solution for emissions reduction and lifetime cost savings, whenever operationally feasible. Technological advancements in electric powertrain technology, driven by the automotive industry, now allow for proposed systems with capacities of up to 70MWh for individual vessels. While deep-sea vessels require energy in the hundreds of mega-watt hours, surpassing the capabilities of pure electric propulsion, battery systems still provide value by enhancing fuel economy in internal combustion engines and fuel cells, thus driving the hybrid market.
In terms of market volume, electric recreational and leisure boating hold the largest share, with tens of thousands of units sold annually. These boats resemble the cars of the marine world, privately owned with shorter-range requirements and typically powered purely by electric batteries ranging up to a few hundred kWh. On the other hand, several hundred hybrid deep-sea vessels are currently in operation. Despite being a smaller market in terms of volume, this sector holds the highest market value and will drive the demand for maritime batteries in the future due to the large vessel sizes and significant energy requirements involved, necessitating the use of large-scale battery systems per vessel.
Analysis of technology
The IDTechEx report titled ‘Electric Boats & Ships 2024 – 2044’ offers detailed projections for 20 years, including forecasts for unit sales, battery demand in gigawatt-hours (GWh), and market value in billions of dollars for various electric vessel categories such as ferries, cargo/container ships, Ro-Ro vessels, cruise ships, OSVs, tugboats, and recreational boats. The report also provides a comprehensive analysis of technologies and pricing trends for marine Li-ion battery systems, covering the years 2020 to 2044. Additionally, insights from interviews with multiple suppliers are included to shed light on electric propulsion systems in the maritime industry.
- Annual number of electric vessels 2020-2044: Ferry, Cruise, Ro-Ro, Cargo, OSV, Tug, Other
- Battery demand from electric vessels MWh 2020-2044: Ferry, Cruise, Ro-Ro, Cargo, OSV, Tug, Other
- Market size of marine battery systems 2020-2044 (US$ bn): Ferry, Cruise, Ro-Ro, Cargo, OSV, Tug, Other
- Regional electric ferry sales & battery demand 2020-2044, Norway, EU, North America, RoW
- Recreational electric boat unit sales by power class 2020-2044: <1kW, <12kW, >25kW
- Recreational electric boat battery demand MWh by power class 2020-2044: <1kW, <12kW, >25kW
- Marine battery system price forecast 2022-2044 ($/kWh)
- Analysis of marine Li-ion battery system technologies & suppliers with primary interviews
- Analysis of marine motor & propulsion system technologies & suppliers with primary interviews
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