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EU: New battery project targets greener waterborne transport

The European Union has provided funding for Current Direct, a newly launched research and innovation project that aims to revolutionize the way goods and people are moved by water.

The EU grant, amounting to €11.989,875, has been awarded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program.

Specifically, the three-year project proposes an innovative lithium-ion cell optimized for waterborne transport, using novel manufacturing techniques allowing for a consistent cost reduction compared to the current market prices. Additionally, a swappable containerized energy storage system optimized for cost and operation in the waterborne transport industry will be developed.

The overarching aim of the Current Direct project is to develop and demonstrate an innovative interchangeable waterborne transport battery system and Energy as a Service (EaaS) Platform in an operational environment at the Port of Rotterdam at TRL7 that facilitates fast charging of vessels, fleet optimization and novel business models. 

The transport sector contributes to almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The vast majority of water transport in Europe is propelled by dirty, noisy diesel engines. By cutting the cost of today’s marine battery electric drivetrains in half and relieving ship owners of the burden of capital expense, Current Direct seeks to enable rapid adoption to reduce greenhouse emissions by 482,000 MT of CO2 equivalents per year.

As explained, Current Direct’s EaaS platform will enable ship owners to accelerate their participation in the shift to clean energy while creating new business opportunities for shipyards and local entrepreneurs. By changing the model for acquiring and storing energy aboard vessels, Current Direct has the potential to create a new energy economy, adding thousands of new jobs.

The project, being implemented from 1 January 2021 until 31 December 2023, is said to provide a vehicle for energy companies, institutional investors, and government stakeholders to participate in the green transformation of Europe’s merchant and passenger fleet.

Thirteen partners take part in Current Direct

Current Direct brings together thirteen partners from across Europe’s marine electrification value chain. The project is led by battery manufacturer Spear Power Systems.

Blackstone Technology will be lowering the cost of manufacturing tomorrow’s 3D printed lithium-ion cells using active materials from Umicore. The University of Hasselt will use its electrochemical expertise to develop physics-based models of the Current Direct cells that will help optimize the life and return on investment of battery systems deployed across Europe as part of the Current Direct Energy as a Service platform developed by engineers and data scientists at Rhoé Urban Technologies and Aviloo. Naval architecture and marine engineering company Foreship will lend its expertise to EDP CNET’s in-depth knowledge of electrical markets to ensure the Current Direct platform targets optimal vessels and locations maximizing reductions in emissions.

Moreover, VUB’s material science experts are creating low-cost composites to improve the safety of battery packs that are designed for recyclability and feature VITO’s smart cell monitoring electronics.

Additionally, Wärtsilä will develop modular battery containers and charging infrastructure that will be certified to innovative standards by Lloyd’s Register.

The project will culminate in a demonstration of the Current Direct battery, shore charging, and asset management platform by Kotug in Rotterdam.