Are electric ships for the future?

– by Sven Borén

Ship propulsion powered by electricity is feasible for cruise liners, icebreakers, stealth war ships, and other marine applications that require high manoeuvrability and operations in sensitive environments (Bolvashenkov et al., 2014; Hansen and Wendt, 2015). Today, electric driveline in ships often comprises electrical propulsion powered by a diesel-electric hybrid system and is most commonly used by offshore and also by cruise/ferries vessels. The amount of electric propelled ships has since the early 80’s doubled each year because of technology development regarding power electronics and introduction of podded propulsion, but also the increase in offshore exploration and the seek for more energy efficient solutions (Pestana, 2014).



The battery powered M/V Deutschland (Rödby-Puttgarden). Source:


According to (Bolvashenkov et al., 2014), the recent development of batteries and other electric energy storages, coupled up with more efficient propulsion systems as double rotational propellers, make the full-electric propulsion system a cheaper investment than the traditional low-speed diesel powered mechanical propulsion system. Energy needs for both propulsion and power supply for accommodation and auxiliary purposes would be partly covered by wind and solar harvesting techniques, e.g. Flettner rotors, photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. In such comparison, a full electric ship would be even more advantageous when considering environmental damages.


Bolvashenkov, I., Herzog, H.G., Rubinraut, A., Romanovskiy, V., 2014. Possible Ways to Improve the Efficiency and Competitiveness of Modern Ships with Electric Propulsion Systems, in:. Presented at the 2014 IEEE Vehicle Power and Propulsion Conference (VPPC), IEEE, pp. 1–9. doi:10.1109/VPPC.2014.7007120

Hansen, J.F., Wendt, F., 2015. History and State of the Art in Commercial Electric Ship Propulsion, Integrated Power Systems, and Future Trends. Proceedings of the IEEE 103, 2229–2242. doi:10.1109/JPROC.2015.2458990

Pestana, H., 2014. Future trends of electrical propulsion and implications to ship design, in:. Presented at the Martech 2014, Lisbon.



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