Western Baltic Engineering unveils plans for first electric pusher
Lithuanian ship designer Western Baltic Engineering (WBE) is unveiling new designs for what it claims is the very first electric pusher vessel to be used on Europe’s inland waterways called ‘ELECTRIC EEL’.
WBE, headquartered in Klaipeda, said the first electric pusher is expected to be built next year for the Lithuanian Inland Waterways Authority, a public body under the Lithuanian government’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.
WBE Sales and Marketing Manager Eglė Mikalauskienė said the revolutionary new vessel is designed to replace the diesel pushers that currently dominate the market for unpowered barges on European waterways. WBE is producing the concept just as the European Union is stepping up pressure to shift freight to European waterways via greener ships (see Notes to Editors).
“We are excited to unveil this electric lifter design,” said Egle. “The electric eel has huge potential to help reduce carbon emissions on waterways in Europe and around the world. The idea came after we were approached by the Lithuanian Maritime Cluster to see if we could help the Lithuanian Inland Waterways Authority to create an eco-efficient pusher. The authority has big plans to speed up the use of the 450 km stretch of waterway between Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea and Kaunas to transfer goods from the road network in accordance with EU policy. It’s great to support this bold vision and work on a sustainable clean fuel solution right here on our doorstep. As a measure of impact, the authority estimates that the pusher can help remove 10,000 trucks a year from Lithuanian roads.
Ms. Mikalauskienė said road freight currently accounts for 75% of EU inland freight, while inland waterway transport (IWT) accounts for only 6%.
“The market is huge,” she said. “According to the figures, there is a fleet of 332 diesel pushers on the Danube alone pushing more than 2,000 unpowered barges. We estimate that each of these vessels emits 196,317 kg of Tank-to-Wheel (TTW) CO2 per sail, while our electric pusher design cuts this down at a stroke as it emits zero CO2. The beauty of our design is also in its ease of use, it can be purchased and then built at a local shipyard near the customer or we can build it in Lithuania. We believe that our electric pusher is a forerunner in the market and can play a vital role in transforming Lithuania’s inland navigation as well as the Danube and the Rhine.
Mikalauskienė said the pusher design is pending approval in principle by Bureau Veritas and can operate at a distance of 300 km before having to stop. The 26m long vessel is powered by three DNV approved batteries with a combined weight of 74 tonnes, two held in TEU containers on deck which can be replaced by a crane in port, and one permanent battery below deck which can be loaded at dock. The vessel has a thrust capacity of 2,000 tons and a maximum speed of 22 km/h downstream at 85% engine load. The electric batteries create an engine power of 500 CV/400 KW compared to a diesel equivalent which has 1000 CV/800 KW.
“The biggest challenge we faced was the weight and the draft,” she said. “The Lithuanian waterway is currently very shallow, so we had to design a ship as light as possible, no more than 195 DWT, with a draft of no more than 1.2 meters. So we created a super efficient hull design that will perform brilliantly on shallow waters in Europe and around the world. Through trial and error using rigorous Computerized Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing, we have produced the smoothest hull strength possible. We also use thinner and lighter class-approved steel to reduce weight while keeping safety of paramount importance. Additionally, we innovated the linkage, using an aluminum jack design, again to distribute and reduce weight.
Ms Mikalauskienė said another innovation on board is the use of a wind turbine to generate an additional 5 kW of electricity for lighting, galley and crew facilities.
“The entire WBE team is incredibly proud of the design and we want to thank everyone involved,” she said. “Over time, as green power becomes cheaper, the cost of charging batteries will also reduce significantly, leading to great future savings compared to diesel.”
Source: Western Baltic Engineering