May 28, 2022

we sent Things in the oceans for centuries, and global supply chains are increasingly dependent on megakorabley with a diesel engine, which is enough to cover the whole channels independently. As this monolithic obezuglerozhit industry? FleetZero thinks that they can do it with the help of electric vehicles, make small jumps across the Pacific Ocean, relying on smaller ports and clever scheme of sharing the batteries.

The problem is serious for anyone involved in emissions and the impact on the climate and oceans, because these giant ships to carry more of the world’s goods, and throw around a billion tons of carbon per year. There are many possibilities, but, as in other branches of obsolete – and in the ships themselves – inertia can be difficult to overcome.

Stephen Henderson and Mike Carter grew up in and around the shipping industry, and as engineers they understand the enormous forces and challenges facing anyone who wants to change the way the industry works. Electrifying a consumer car is easier than converting a thousand-foot ship with a building-sized engine. And even if you succeed, how are you going to charge – running a dozen power strips per tap every hundred miles?

This poses many serious challenges both technically and logistically, and the industry is paralyzed by the belief that it will be difficult and costly to abandon dirty traditional methods. Can they really afford the cost of the transition to a more stable traction when the margin is already absorbed a lot of things (including soaring prices for gasoline)? Increased costs, undesirable even for successful shippers, may bypass smaller and less prosperous sectors and companies altogether.

Fortunately, FleetZero believes that its solution will not only be cleaner, but also cheaper to run. The reasons for this begin with the surprising (to Lubbers) fact that transoceanic shipping does not necessarily go “straight” across the ocean; Much of the coastline is almost as straight (and perhaps less risky), from East Asia to ports on the West Coast. It sounds like it’s a lot longer, but due to the curvature of the Earth, it actually isn’t – and you have the advantage of being close to the ground to resupply or distribute them along the way.

When you do not need to travel thousands of miles without interruption, transportation powered by the battery becomes much more feasible, and in fact this is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle that create potentially transforming the picture.

Standard shipping units

“The weird economics is that the more ships you have and the more stops you have, the lower your costs. The key is to make the batteries interchangeable — that won’t work for a plug-in vessel,” Henderson said.

It’s a bit illogical – “In fact, I had to simulate it with a toy boat to my daughter on the floor”, – he said – but think of it this way. If a ship has enough battery to go a thousand miles, if you don’t cover the same distance every time, you will either have too much or too little capacity. And if you only have a large ship that needs changing batteries at each end, you need to keep twice as many active batteries nearby – one set to replace at each destination. But if you divide the same capacity into several smaller vessels and add more potential stops, suddenly the battery capacity becomes too small to carry the same amount of cargo.

This handy simple case diagram can help illustrate this:

A diagram showing how to efficiently divide the battery between several smaller ships.

image credit: floatzero

There are many other configurations in between, but the message is clear enough: large and small ships use less battery to carry the same amount of cargo, as long as you have ports in between to make the switching network flexible. Plug-in ships won’t work, partly because they carry a lot of battery (resulting in less usage), and also because dock charging may not be available.

Because batteries are the most expensive part of ship electrification, efficiency greatly reduces fleet acquisition costs. But of course, this approach also requires charging infrastructure at ports, where it may not exist. FleetZero’s vision, which at first glance seems obvious, is to make ship’s batteries as portable as cargo by placing them in seaworthy containers.

Computer graphics container FleetZero battery.

Computer visualization of a ship container battery FleetZero Leviathan.

If you think that they take up too much space, there are two answers. First, removing a huge diesel engine, fuel and ballast tanks, you get a ton of space on this ship, sometimes doubling the capacity. And secondly, you need to take only what you need.

“We can put the ship two hundred or two hundred of the batteries and change the limit every time we charge it,” – said Henderson. “You unload and load them in the same way as any other cargo; He was being taken to the right place, at the warehouse or local utilities.

There, they can use off-peak electricity to charge these batteries cheaper Leviathan (as they call them), or even as a temporary power source to connect korabley.Takzhe can be used, so that they did not need to work on a diesel generator.

“Doc electrification is expensive – it all ports 50-100 years” – continued Henderson. “We were actually told that the use of our batteries for other ships of the power is cheap, so you do not need to build a substation in each dock.”

This feeds the next piece of the puzzle, where this imaginary network of ships fits into the real network of ports.

ports of call

Carter explained that when he pondered the idea, it was clear that a direct shot across the ocean in a megaship with 10,000 containers would require a battery several miles high – something of an engineering challenge – and while only a handful of ships with full containers could do it, logistics or a swarm of small ships failed. “For the size of the ship you want to use, there is enough space, and we are talking about a ship with three to four thousand containers,” he said. (The images in this article are of the proposed small test vessel.)

“Because they are on the shorter side – we are still talking about 700 feet away – you can get to the lower gate”, – said Carter. “All of them are ports, but does not fit in them no ship. The ability to use smaller ships [logistics companies] They have a lot more flexibility in the supply chain than they do now. If we look at places like Portland or Everett, these are ports that few people know about, but they are not as crowded and we can bring cargo closer to customers.

View of Coast Guard boats with container panels.

image credit: flotzero

It also allows ships to make frequent pit stops where they can return depleted batteries and have enough new batteries to take them to their destination, such as building a network of charging stations along highways. Local authorities and port authorities may be overly excited about the idea of ​​starting a new and regular business in these small spaces.

Thus, the use of portable batteries the size of the container makes the practical travel over medium distances on vessels of medium size, allowing a small port to work as charging stations without much investment, combining network and reducing the operating cost of the fleet – producing batteries. shipping with a gas engine is competitive and perhaps even cheaper than conventional vessels operating on gas.

Sounds promising, but it also requires a great deal. Like any smart startup, they start small, prove their concept and scale within three years. Debuting at the bottom of the Y Combinator demo cohort Finals Winter, FleetZero has raised $ 3.5 million in a combination of angelic and preliminary rounds. The number of investors includes Sam Altman, John Doerr, David Rubenstein, David Edelman, Flexport, Y Combinator, My Climate Journey and Joris Port.

The first task was to produce batteries, which they found had a very different chemical composition from what could be found there due to the extreme fire hazard on these ships. “We needed a battery that didn’t oxidize,” says Henderson, noting that things like lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries can be a serious hazard. They eventually switched to lithium iron phosphate and were produced for both passive and active fire fighting measures.

Once this is fixed, their next task is to load the shipment into the back of the 300-foot vessel and test the entire shipping and exchange process from start to finish. Once that is done and they have received the necessary regulatory approvals, they will begin refitting the ships in 2025, possibly after raising additional funds.

With a little luck and a lot of hard work, FleetZero was able to go commercial that same year. While this has a lot to offer, they have the advantage of being supported by everyone – electrification on this scale will benefit fleet owners, port operators, logistics companies, and last but not least, the entire planet.

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