Did you ever do an energy balance calculation on how many batteries you would need to power a reasonable boat at reasonable speed and how much it will cost? If you did so you probably ended up scratching your head, are electric ships ever going to make it to the mass market? Yet here we are, looking at announcements for electric ships on a weekly basis. On the other hand, it is also clear that we are not just there yet; fully battery powered ships are insofar expensive and their missions are limited in scope and range. Their recharging is an issue and might need to happen more often than desired.
Nevertheless the industry seems poised to take the direction of electric ships and there is no doubt that, once there, the benefits outnumber the drawbacks. But is the technology ready? Undoubtedly, anyone with an interest in the industry is aware of the concerns regarding Lithium-Ion batteries in terms of cost, availability and capability to recycle, therefore intermediate fuels and battery alternatives are being sought. Hydrogen burnt in fuel cells is a good alternative for hybrid-electric prime movers.
Recently, the Energy Observer hydrogen ship and her crew successfully completed their round the world odyssey – a 9,000 km (5,600 mi) transatlantic voyage achieved with zero emissions of carbon or fine particles. Well, their achievement is certainly spectacular but one needs to get Hydrogen from somewhere and that’s not necessarily clean.
Many argue – and rightly – that renewable energy is nice and all, but there are so many issues with it: you can’t store it, it’s inconsistent and especially in terms of wind turbines it produces a lot of waste. Its efficiency is simply not up there where it needs to be in order to fully replace fossil fuel. Certainly, it will need to leap ahead an order of magnitude to satisfy the energy requirements of our civilization (some might recall the Kardashev scale). So how do we get there? There’s a secret, little, ‘dirty’ word: nuclear power. But is it dirty, really? Actually not, it is one of the cleanest and safest energy sources. That’s why CORE POWER’s solution makes sense: Molten Salt Reactors are the keyword in the industry and they make sense. Smaller, cheaper, safer than classical reactors they are an excellent alternative to fuel cells and hydrogen, if and when they become available and accepted by public opinion.
Meanwhile battery technology is evolving in new directions. Because what’s better than riding on a nuclear reactor? Riding on its nuclear waste of course. California company NDB claims that it can generate power from nuclear waste packaged into batteries of all possible sizes. The idea is that the batteries will barely run out of power as radioactive decay will produce energy through the impenetrable carbon-12 packaging. What remains to be seen is if the numbers will come true and if the solution will scale.