The shipping industry causes at least 2.5% of the world’s total CO2 emissions. A New Orleans startup in the maritime industry, Fleetzero, thinks that electrification is the only way to decarbonize this monolithic industry.
The company, founded by a team of U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduates, is working to develop an entire fleet of long-range electric cargo ships that run on a battery-swapping system. Until their flagship takes to the sea, the company is making existing diesel-powered ships better by converting them to battery-electric operations.
The startup has developed a marine battery system that offers 2 MWh of energy storage per pack. It is housed in a low-height shipping container of 20 feet by five feet with a weight of eight tonnes. When the ship comes into port, the drained batteries in the container carrier are swapped out for new ones. The battery packs have been made exceptionally rugged to withstand inversion, shock, and excess g-forces.
Fleetzero is currently seeking approval for its lithium iron phosphate battery pack and is planning to conduct the maiden voyage of its first long-range electric cargo ship by mid-2023, with more ships to follow.
According to the company, the smaller vessels will also be able to access ports that larger container ships can’t. Battery swapping and sharing solution are said to offer the economic benefit of reduced costs as a result of requiring fewer batteries per ship.
The developers of the battery container also explain that an electrified drive system is mechanically much simpler than a conventional drive with a combustion engine. This would simplify the maintenance of the container ships. In addition, the ships no longer needed tanks for fuel and ballast water and could therefore carry more containers.
Fleetzero’s ambitious plans are supported by the My Climate Journey (MCJ), an investment fund that supports founders of scaling climate solutions.