The maritime transport sector is responsible for at least 2.5% of total global CO2 emissions. Fleetzero, a maritime startup from New Orleans, believes that electrification is the only way to decarbonize this monolithic industry.
The company, founded by a team of United States Merchant Marine Academy graduates, is working to develop an entire fleet of long-range electric cargo ships that work with a battery swap system.
Until its flagship sets sail, the company is retrofitting existing diesel-powered vessels by converting them to battery-electric operations.
The company has developed a marine battery system that offers 2 MWh of energy storage per pack. It is housed in a low-rise shipping container measuring 6m by 1.5m and weighing 8 tonnes.
When the ship arrives in port, the depleted batteries in the container are exchanged for new ones. The batteries have been made exceptionally tough to withstand inversions, shocks and excessive g-forces.
Fleetzero is seeking approval for its lithium iron phosphate battery and expects to make the maiden voyage of its first long-range electric freighter in mid-2023, with other vessels to follow.
According to the company, smaller vessels will also be able to access ports that large container ships cannot. The battery swap and share solution is said to offer the economic benefit of reducing costs due to the need for fewer batteries per boat.
The developers of the battery container also explain that an electrified propulsion system is mechanically much simpler than conventional propulsion with a combustion engine. This would simplify the maintenance of container ships. Also, ships would no longer need tanks for fuel and ballast water, so they could carry more containers.
Fleetzero’s ambitious plans are backed by My Climate Journey (MCJ), an investment fund that supports founders of large-scale climate solutions.