Ships fitted with hybrid main propulsion gear could be on the market within a year, a robotics and automation company has said.
ABB has been testing the technology in a hybrid laboratory in collaboration with Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute.
The company said it expects to sign its first contract in the course of the year.
“Hybrid propulsion systems significantly reduce both fuel consumption and emissions,” said Børre Gundersen, R&D manager for ABB’s marine activities in Norway.
The aim is to come up with improved solutions for energy-efficient propulsion systems for boats.
Researchers’ findings have shown that a direct-current power system that has a battery fitted, for example, would lead to a 10 – 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and less emissions than a traditional alternating current system.
“This is because the energy store optimises operation of the internal combustion engine, which in turn means reduced fuel consumption, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and particles, and not least, improved power system reliability," said Anders Valland, MARINTEK research manager.
“The battery can absorb peak loads, while the internal combustion engine can continue to operate at its optimal level.
“This will also mean that in the future, future ships will not need such large engines as they do today, but rather smaller engines with batteries as backup and for security.”
ABB was hopeful that the market for electric and hybrid vessels would expand, with battery capacity expected to double by 2020.
Engineers are currently expermineting with alternative fuels to make freight greener, as E&T reported earlier this year.
A wind-driven hybrid, called Vindskip, was designed by a Norwegian engineer in a bid to cut fuel costs and help shipping companies comply with emission guidelines.
With almost 90 per cent of all goods being shipped internationally, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) intends to reduce the environmental impact of ocean liners.