The future is electric – but how do we keep it charged?

As demand increases for electric power in the marine industry, the big challenge is charging infrastructure!

Battery charging infrastructure is key to the future of electric cars.

Figures published in 2020 suggest that if all cars in the UK were electric, something like 25,000,000 charging points would be required. That’s an awful lot of chargers still to be installed (currently there are around 11,000) especially now the Government has announced from 2035, only ‘zero emission’ new cars can be sold in the UK!

The marine industry, whilst some way behind the automotive industry in adopting electric power, is catching up fast and over the next few years, electric and hybrid powered vessels are expected to become the ‘go to’ power solution for an industry reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

And this is where it gets interesting. On land, there are plenty of locations for charging points. Every street corner has a lamp post where a charger could be installed. But for marine, things are very different! With more limited marina space for charging points, demand could easily outstrip availability. Add the need for commercial vessels to minimise additional downtime due to battery charging and a challenging picture emerges.

And don’t think this is some way off in the future. It’s an issue being addressed now!

For example, throughout Scandinavia, there are thousands of vehicle ferries linking communities across the Fjords in this part of Northern Europe. These ferries are vital communications links, as without them vehicles would travel hundreds of extra miles each year, using fuel, creating additional emissions and adding hours to journey times. But as the ferries themselves generate CO2 emissions, governments are seeking to reduce this by introducing ‘zero emissions’ vessels to ultimately replace the traditional boats and the first vessels are already under evaluation.

One trial currently taking place is based on a 100% electric powered ferry, where the batteries are charged after each crossing. Time is critical; once arrival vehicles are unloaded and waiting vehicles loaded, the vessel must be ready for departure.

To achieve this, a superfast charging system is being used, but this generates excessive heat levels, which can damage the batteries, reducing their operational life. Consequently, a system for cooling during the charging process had to be developed.

A vital element of this cooling solution are the Bowman heat exchangers, which cool the batteries ensuring they never exceed their recommended temperature, eliminating the possibility of damage due to overheating, whilst enabling them to be recharged quickly and safely. Its success could provide a ‘blueprint’ for other marine applications, where superfast charging is needed.

As well as cooling the batteries, during the winter months the process can be reversed; the heat exchangers being used to warm the batteries, as in extremely cold temperatures, the charging cycle takes much longer to complete.

Bowman, who already supply heat exchangers to many of the world’s leading electric and hybrid marine propulsion OEMs, can also provide cooling solutions for the charging infrastructure that will keep them operational.

So, the future is electric and Bowman heat exchangers are at the heart of it!