e5 Lab kicks off Roboship electric vessel project

Tokyo-based shipping consortium e5 Lab Inc. has started developing the Roboship, the standard models of electrically powered vessels to realize zero emissions, as well as an integrated system called the Roboship Box which brings together telecommunications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and software.

Image by MOL

The e5 Consortium is comprised of Asahi Tanker, Idemitsu Kosan, Exeno Yamamizu Corporation, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Through this initiative, e5 Lab is working to address critical issues facing Japan’s ocean shipping and maritime industries, including a shortage of seafarers, environmental concerns, safety, and the sustainable growth of the shipbuilding/ship machinery sectors.

The development project team wants to commercialize electric-powered merchant vessels in the global market.

The team has developed two types of electric vessels in the Roboship Ver. 1.0, with standard gross tonnage specifications — 499 tons and 749 tons.

They will be able to achieve the same speed and sailing range as vessels currently in service, while achieving zero-emission operation in port, due to the large-capacity storage batteries in combination with a diesel-powered generator.

The consortium believes Roboship Ver. 1.0 can significantly reduce the workload of seafarers and lower the risk of mechanical problems and decrease maintenance costs because the motors are powered only by electricity.

The team’s current target is to keep construction costs less than 5% above the cost of comparable existing vessels. The Roboship Ver. 1.0 is slated for delivery within 2022.

e5 Lab plans to offer the Roboship Box as well as the EV powertrain, which is a key technology of the Roboship, to all interested shipyards and shipowners. 

The Roboship Box is the foundation that connects the vessel and shore and enables shore-side support using digital technology.