Electric Ships Are Ready For Action
The electric car revolution has spread to water as ships all over the world are turning green
The Yara Birkeland is a 260 foot vessel owned by Norwegian chemical firm Yara International. The Birkeland was built several years ago (at a cost of $25 million) to carry fertilizer and chemicals up and a 13 kilometer stretch of coastline, replacing 40,000 truck loads annually.
At first glance, the Birkeland looks unremarkable —cargo ships that look just like it can be seen off coastlines all around the world. But there are two things that separate the Birkeland from other ships.
The first is that it was designed to be completely autonomous, the first of its kind globally. Once fully operational, the ship will complete its journey with absolutely no human crew.
But the ship is also unique in how its powered — it runs solely on electricity.
Shipping represents a sizable portion of global CO2 emissions — nearly 3%, according to the latest report from the International Maritime Organization. Worse yet, shipping emissions are growing steadily even as other sectors show progress in emissions reduction.
New and innovative electric ships are one of the most promising solutions to reduce shipping emissions.
Over the past ten years, electric vehicle technology has progressed from infancy to increasingly mainstream. Naturally, the technology is now being applied to new sectors — and shipping is an obvious candidate.
Norway, the global leader in electric passenger cars, has also taken an active role in electric shipping. The Birkeland, a cargo vessel, is one leading example, but electric ships are also carrying passengers and their cars.
A number of large ferries are also turning electric. In mid 2021, shipping company Basto Fosen launched the world’s largest electric ferry, capable of carrying 600 passengers and 200 passenger vehicles across a ten kilometer route.
In other parts of the world, new and increasingly large electric ships are entering service. China, in particular, has registered several of the world’s largest…