Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Technologies May Result in Cleaner, Greener Freight and Logistics Supply Chain in the Future

Report Draws on Multiple Sources - Some of Which are Science Fiction Turned Reality
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The ceaseless search for cleaner modes of transport right through the logistics supply chain throws up a seemingly never ending set of new technological advances, many of which may seem frivolous at first sight but, as has been evidenced time and again, may eventually prove to hold the key to further advances, often in disassociated fields and with real potential for some elements of the freight and shipping industry in the not too distant future. Indeed we have ourselves published many stories over the past few years outlining practical and innovative designs aimed at saving time, energy or both whilst reducing emissions.

This month sees the publishing of a report by IDTechEx entitled ‘Electric Boats, Small Submarines and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) 2013-2023’ which, whilst of some interest to those in the shipping industry, at a fraction under $4,000 for the electronic version alone, is hardly guaranteed to make the best seller lists.

The report predicts that the market for electrically powered marine vehicles will grow from the current $2.6 billion to $6.3 billion in the next decade, these figures do not include pure electric outboards of the type commonly used by sport fishermen etc. nor the hybrid power units likely to populate the larger outboard sector in the future. Currently the market includes on-water and underwater electric vehicles for inland waterways and the sea, with military electric craft the largest market sector by value today, but e-workboats and other, smaller market subsectors will increase their share of sales through the coming decade.

According to IDTechEx the pressure to meet new emission regulations means that boat and shipyards in the future need a more modern approach, particularly with regard to seagoing craft in both the private and commercial sectors, and it believes a marine market is often more profitable and more open to innovation than on-road electric vehicles.

The future success of these new generation craft may be down to a number of factors; for example, tug boat companies switching from diesel alone to hybrid electric because they will potentially save 70% on fuel costs, which is expected to translate to a two year return on investment. Another reason is a 60% reduction on emissions over diesel, which is something that such vessels will need to meet future emission regulations.

Despite the inherent problems of battery cost and weight, electric motors also produce some spectacular advances in terms of power transfer as well as environmental gains. Tugs for example can obtain immediate maximum power from a static start, whilst speedboats can have excellent rates of acceleration, military craft have little or no heat or sound signature for missiles to home in on and silent river boats can permit undisturbed studies of wildlife.

What is particularly fascinating about the report are the many diverse sources and projects, some shown here on video, which have contributed to it. The links assembled include such random topics as hydrogenics, solar powered boats, the Sauter Supertanker, sea and wave gliders and the Oceanvolt SD Electric Saildrive which won SAIL magazine’s 2013 Pittman Innovation Award.

Much of this may seem to have little or no relation to the wider world of logistics but it is a fact that many of the technologies will impact on certain sectors and perhaps, particularly as battery design and hydrogen fuel cell practicality develops, we shall witness the coming of new machines capable of providing us with hitherto unknown forms of transport in the not so distant future.

Photo: The Aquarius Eco Ship concept design by Eco Marine Power which utilises both wind and solar energy via its rigid sails.