Revolutionizing Inland Waterway Transport With Low-Cost Battery Propulsion


  • The maritime sector is exploring low-cost battery options for vessel propulsion to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Liquid metal battery technology offers a promising alternative to expensive lithium batteries, with projections suggesting significant cost reductions by 2030-2035.
  • These batteries can be integrated into barges for short-distance propulsion along inland waterways, providing substantial energy storage and minimal fade over extended usage.

The maritime sector has been exploring battery-powered vessels as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. However, the high cost of lithium battery technology has been a significant barrier. Liquid metal battery technology presents a promising alternative, with projections indicating a substantial cost reduction by 2030-2035.

On the Water

Liquid metal batteries, which are housed in standard-size containers, have the potential for integration into barges for short-distance propulsion along inland waterways. These batteries boast significant energy storage capacity and demonstrate minimal fade over extensive usage, making them well-suited for maritime applications.

Onboard Energy Storage

Each battery container offers substantial electrical energy storage, allowing a barge carrying multiple containers to provide significant power output for propulsion. This innovation enables barges to operate for extended durations without the need for frequent recharging, enhancing efficiency and reducing operational downtime.

Deeper Waterways

Battery electric tugs, equipped with liquid metal batteries, could potentially transport cargo between major ports, such as from Newark to New York or along the St. Lawrence River. These vessels offer environmentally friendly propulsion solutions for deeper waterways, contributing to sustainability efforts in maritime transportation.

Future Power Generation

As political efforts push for the transition to electric propulsion, the construction of new power stations may be necessary, with options including nuclear or renewable energy sources. Progress in energy conversion technologies, such as tidal currents and ocean waves, continues, with a focus on sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

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Source: Maritime Executive