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Marine-i event highlights the opportunities in hybrid marine propulsion

By Matt Hodson, Marine Hub Operations Director, Cornwall Development Company

 A capacity audience of over 100 delegates attended the Marine-i Discovery Room event on 21st February 2018 on the theme of Hybrid Marine Propulsion and Smart Battery Technology. 

The event was hosted at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and delegates were welcomed to the day by Justin Olosunde, Head of Falmouth Marine School and Director of The Cornwall College Group.

Professor Chris Hodge, President of IMarEST, gave a presentation on “Completing the Electric Warship.” Chris gave a detailed overview of the potential future use of hybrid and electric technology by the Navy, as well as the development of more advanced weaponry, such as high-powered lasers. Chris pointed out that there was a strong likelihood of technology transfer from discoveries in the military sector across to commercial applications.

Ken Wittamore of Triskel Marine spoke about “The Politics and Technology of Small Marine Hybrids.” Ken outlined how hybrid technology has particularly strong potential for smaller craft, especially when set in the context of EU and UK policy, global trends and drivers. Worldwide marine trade growth is expected to increase by 40% by 2030, with the demand for energy supply expanding by 45%, which is likely to bring further focus on environmental legislation, given the challenges of climate change. Ken highlighted the various pioneering collaborative projects that Triskel Marine has been involved in. This led him to conclude that the key opportunity lies in parallel hybrids, as well as variable pitch propellers. Triskel Marine have created an on-engine generator, an exciting new device due for launch in autumn 2018.

Trevor Jackson, Chairman of MAL (R&D) spoke about the latest battery technology, on the theme of “Power from Aluminium.” Trevor described in detail the development of the revolutionary new Aluminium Air Batteries. Compared to conventional batteries, these are safer, more cost effective, fully recyclable and create zero C02 emissions. Their more efficient charging means that they deliver a lower cost per mile for the user. They also have a much greater range. For example, in the automotive sector, Aluminium Air batteries have delivered a range of 1,500 miles from one charge. The company will be showcasing this new technology in the automotive trade this year by participating in a UK-wide tour and in an around the world electric car race.

Darren Barnett of MTU UK Ltd spoke about his company’s latest developments in hybrid marine systems. MTU specialise in being a systems supplier and a systems integrator. Darren gave an overview of the benefits of hybrid across all transport sectors. For example, he pointed out that railway operators can achieve fuel savings of up to 20%. In contrast, the benefits for marine vessels depend very much on the type of marine craft. Overall, the potential benefits are less related to cost and more likely to be seen in areas such as performance, environmental compliance and passenger comfort.

This led naturally on to the second presentation by Ken Wittamore of Triskel Marine on “The Financial Case for Marine Hybrid Technology.” Ken pointed out that larger ships are not the best candidates for hybridisation. The technology is best suited for marine craft that have to go up and down the power curve on a regular basis. This would include pilot boats, tugs, short distance ferries, recreational vessels, harbour patrol boats and specialist tourist vessels. All of these would be highly appropriate for all electric or partial hybrid propulsion systems. As an example, a pilot boat could use the electric drive while idling in port, resulting in zero emissions during port operations. Oslo and Amsterdam are two ports that have already legislated for zero emissions, and more are bound to follow. For the type of marine craft that Ken describes, hybrid will become the technology of choice in the next ten years.

After these excellent presentations, delegates discussed in detail the key opportunities for marine technology businesses and then took part in round table discussions to come up with action points for addressing some of the technical challenges that had been raised and explore possible collaboration. These sessions were coordinated and summarised by Professor John Chudley, Director of Professional Development at IMarEST, who also acted as chairperson for the whole day’s proceedings.

Emma Baggett, Falmouth Marine School’s Business Development Manager, was the lead organiser for this event. She says:

“It was fantastic to see the event so well attended and to have so much outstanding expertise gathered in one room. From the discussions that took place and the feedback we received from delegates, it is clear that hearing first-hand about the leading-edge developments in hybrid propulsion has helped to stimulate some exciting new thinking from the businesses that attended.”