Next Generation Propulsion Sustainability

The Energy Transition: Sustainable Marine Powertrains and Alternative Fuels

Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 25 January 2022

For several years at METSTRADE, we have been asking our Sustainability Panels the question: ‘‘How green is green in the leisure marine industry?" The topics we have covered have included disassembly, life cycle assessment, material selection for better recyclability at end-of-life, and the development of clean energy storage and propulsion solutions.

For the 2021 sustainable panel at METSTRADE, we considered the intensifying global pressures on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. For instance, the climate change targets set out by the UN Sustainability Development Goals, and the EU Green Deal. With this in mind, we decided to narrow the focus, by homing-in on the latest innovations aimed at achieving these climate change targets.

This article sums up the key points from the METSTRADE TV panel session 'Sustainable Marine Powertrains and Alternative Fuels'. Watch the full session via our virtual platform METSTRADE Connect >

Energy transition in the marine industry

The environmental risks associated with climate change have significant implications for the global ocean which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, and quite obviously, leisure boating and the industries that support it are very much part of this equation as ‘stewards of the oceans.’

The panel was therefore made up of experts who have all been involved in developing and specifying marine energy and propulsion systems as part of the ‘energy transition’ focus within the recreational boating sector; thus, contributing to the marine industry’s movement away from fossil fuels, and the traditional internal combustion engine.

The panel discussion was broadcast from the METSTRADE TV studio at RAI Amsterdam and hosted by Pernille La Lau and co-hosted by Patrick Hemp. Patrick is Technical Manager at ICOMIA and has moderated the sustainability forums at METSTRADE for the past seven years. The invited panel speakers were:

  • Dr. Christoph Ballin (Founder Torqeedo Marine Electric Drives)
  • Jacopo Molinari (Proposal Engineer, Fincantieri Yachts)
  • Laurent Pérignon (Yachting Specialist, Energy Observer (EODev) Hydrogen Energy Project).

Key points from panel discussion 'Sustainable Marine Powertrains and Alternative Fuels'

1. Unique challenges for the marine industry

"As an industry we do face some unique challenges compared to the land-based environment. Boats typically need around 10 times the power requirement compared to normal combustion engines, so we are more like the aviation sector. Not all the energy that boats need can come from wind or sun, so at some stage they have to ‘plug-in. That may be for electrical recharge, or maybe in the future refueling with hydrogen or low emission biofuels, there are multiple pathways towards the intended end result." - Patrick Hemp (ICOMIA)

2. We need to move faster to beat gobal warming

"If we are serious about reaching net-zero by 2050, we are not as advanced as we should be at this stage. Every industry needs to play its part to reduce C02 emissions by 45% by 2030 (relative to 2010 levels), in order to keep global warming below 1.5C. That is only 9 years away now, and of course we won’t cut combustion engines by 50% during that period. Electrification of recreational boating is at around 2% presently which proves that we have a long way to go." - Christoph Ballin (Founder Torqeedo)

3. Balancing the combination hydrogen vs batteries

Hydrogen being a storage of energy, compliments all the other solutions rather than being seen purely as a stand-alone. With batteries having limitations on energy storage, we see hydrogen as the best alignment with electrification in order to meet the net-zero demands as quickly as possible. The hydrogen solution combined with batteries is all about optimising the package to suit the customer demands, for instance extending the range. By balancing that combination correctly, we can produce a boat with less volume taken up by batteries and less weight onboard. - Laurent Pérignon (Yachting specialist)

4. Hybrid solutions are key

"In the last few years most of our clients have requested energy recovery or hybrid solutions in their wish list, which means that owners do want to find ways to reduce their emissions. This may involve ‘peak-shaving,’ using batteries to reduce the highest loads on generators. Or designing a hybrid system, a ‘catch-all’ term which can mean many options. But usually, we increase battery capacity alongside the internal combustion engines to allow the yacht longer periods of zero emission operations. However, batteries can occupy valuable space onboard, so there is always a practical limit, especially for longer voyages. So, they must be coupled with other low emission energy technologies such as hydrogen, and we really must adopt these solutions sooner rather than later." - Jacopo Molinari (Proposal Engineer, Fincantieri Yachts)

5.Three ways to get to net-zero for yacht builders

For yacht builders there are three ways to get to net-zero and be carbon neutral: 1) Battery driven electrification. 2) Hydrogen,typically in combination with fuel cells. 3) Synthetic fuels produced by carbon neutral methodology. Of course, they can all be employed in combination. Another interesting developing scenario for our industry is the advent of foiling craft for high-speed cruising, this concept requires less energy for propulsion, and can go further and faster powered by batteries. - Christoph Ballin (Founder Torqeedo)

Note: This review only covers the high-level views of the panelists. For more details it’s well worth spending 30 minutes to watch the video recording of the session. Watch the full session via our virtual platform METSTRADE Connect >

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