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Electric ship: powered by and carrying coal (scratching head)

November 25th, 2017 · No Comments

Shipping is highly polluting — burning pretty much the dirtiest liquid fuels with limited (to no) pollution controls, shipping pollution is extreme.  A variety of measures are occurring, worldwide, to tackle this — from global agreements on shipping to nations creating regulations as to pollution in their coastal waters and ports, to the introduction of new technologies.  One of those technologies, with limited but growing applicability, is electrification.

Construction of first fully-electric cargo ship (

From luxury houseboats to ferries, electricity is becoming a player in the maritime energy environment. While transoceanic voyages on electric battery (as opposed to electric ships with, for example, nuclear power plants) ships is unlikely to emerge soon, China has started commercial operations with a ton electricity propelled cargo ship.

This kind of ship takes into consideration the harmony between humans and nature and can protect water quality and marine life, and should be copied by other ships sailing on local rivers,” said Wang Yongchen, a Beijing environmentalist.

One of the key energy paths for mitigating climate change is electrification — moving as much economic activity, as possible, from fossil fuels to electricity (whether heating, industry, and/or transportation) while cleaning up the electricity supply.

While intriguing as a step forward toward a more energy-efficient and lower-polluting future, the particular situation does set one ill at ease:

Thus, while using an an electric ship using coal-fired electricity to move coal might (MIGHT) represent some small incremental pollution improvement over the burning of bunker fuel, it is hard to see its current use as exemplifying desired “harmony between humans and nature”.

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Tags: China · electric vehicles · electricity · Electrification · Energy · Maritime