The move to electric:
e-handling and e-boating
Is the switch to electric a good move for all our energy needs? Is it enough to just “look good”? How far forward are we with technology for electric-driven hoists and other yard machinery? What are the upsides and downsides? Marina consultant, Oscar Siches (OS), leads a Marina World discussion with Alessandro Mason (AM) of leading Italian yard machinery manufacturer Cimolai Technology and Maryline Marilly (MM) of Aqua superPower, an electric boat charging provider from the UK.OS: Beware of the industry bringing in electric propulsion. Why? We are at the crest of a wave of necessity and have a fantastic opportunity to modernise and make money. But many of us don’t know enough about it.
Electricity is not the universal solution for the nautical business. Some is good, some is not, and we have to educate ourselves for its use. The clearest situation would be with a machine with an electric motor and battery – but how do we fill the batteries? Dirty electricity (for example, derived from coal) means the whole thing is not clean. We need clear concepts or we are shifting something that looks good but is not good. Clean technology is not always clean. Let’s talk to a machinery builder…
AM: We have a project underway for a 1500 tonne fully electric hoist for an operator in Oregon, USA. It’s tailor-made and fully electric. In the last ten years we have produced different full electric machines and this project represents a further step in this direction. This fully electric machine in the USA can achieve 80% charge in four hours. Then the time this lasts depends on the weight being lifted and by the number of cycles that it runs.
MM: The end objective is to decarbonise – if we produce electricity via diesel generation it’s no good.
OS: Anyone buying a battery-driven product will ask what do you do with the batteries that are no good any more. Governments will soon rule on proper battery disposal but, again, we are trying to save the world on one side and spoil it on the other.
MM: I agree that electricity is not the panacea but is a solution. We can learn from the automotive industry in our transition from fossil fuel. Our company invests in the infrastructure and, in exchange for this, the marina retains us so that we can recoup our investment. Like car charging, we need to offer fast charging (DC charging) and this means some education regarding existing standards. Boats need to have batteries to take this – not the AC lower charge rates.
OS: Aqua superPower makes beautiful charging units. What has this to do with electricity? People get affected by what they see – if it’s good looking and clean it has higher value. The technology is important but we also have to take care of the personal/community side of things. A marina is not just a maritime business but a hospitality venue.
The inconveniences of electric boating, such as range, will hit us when we are actually doing it. We have to look at e-boating as a whole and then make our choices. The type of battery, charging unit and motor will be determined by trends and popularity and that makes it entertaining for me to explore what’s behind it all. What would Cimolai also look at manufacturing as electric?
AM: We would produce any lifting equipment at customer request.
OS: Is there a department for this?
AM: Twenty of our 40 engineers work in R&D and they respond to market demand. Interest in electric equipment has been slow to build and there’s extra time involved, too. We won the US contract, for example, a couple of months ago but it will require approximately one year for designing, developing and assembling.
OS: Is noise a major consideration?
AM: Quiet operation is one of the advantages. We can see this in other markets where there is sensitivity to silence.
MM: Customer experience is very important. Equipment must be silent, not smelly, user-friendly and offer a smooth experience.
These discussion points are abstracted from the Marina World Tech Talk held at METSTRADE 2022, Amsterdam on Wednesday 16th November.