Modifying old fuel-powered vessel with electric motor

I watch from the news that electric motors are used especially in small-tonnage vessels and that they are rarely used in large-tonnage vessels. Is it possible to modify existing old fuel-powered ships with electric motors? Does anyone know of a company that works for this?

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Yes, it is possible to retrofit existing fuel-powered ships with electric motors, though the process can be complex and costly. The feasibility and practicality of such modifications depend on various factors, including the size of the ship, its intended use, and the availability of appropriate technology.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the development of hybrid and fully electric propulsion systems for maritime applications, particularly for small to medium-sized vessels. Retrofitting a large-tonnage vessel with electric motors may pose additional challenges due to their higher power requirements and the need for larger battery capacities.

Several companies specialize in retrofitting and conversion projects for ships. Some notable companies in this field include:

  • ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) - A global technology leader that provides a wide range of electrification, automation, and digitalization solutions for the maritime industry. They offer hybrid and fully electric propulsion systems for various types of vessels.

  • Wärtsilä - A Finnish company specializing in marine and energy solutions. They offer hybrid and electric propulsion systems and are experienced in retrofitting projects.

  • Siemens - A multinational conglomerate that provides electric propulsion systems and hybrid solutions for ships, Siemens has a long history of working with the maritime sector.

  • Rolls-Royce - Known for their expertise in aviation, Rolls-Royce also has a marine division that offers hybrid and electric propulsion systems for various types of ships.

  • Kongsberg Maritime - A Norwegian company that specializes in marine technology solutions, including electric and hybrid propulsion systems for ships.

When considering a retrofit, it is essential to consult with experienced engineers and marine architects who can assess the feasibility of the project, provide guidance on the best technologies available, and ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations.

Keep in mind that retrofitting a large-tonnage vessel is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and each project will have unique challenges and requirements. The availability of shore power infrastructure, charging capabilities, and the vessel’s operational profile should also be considered when evaluating the feasibility of an electric conversion.

There is in fact a growing trend towards converting ships from traditional fossil fuel propulsion to electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems at the moment, due to new environmental regulations that require reduction in green house and other emissions and improve efficiency.

However, with LARGE vessels there are some challenges:

  • Ensuring that the new system is capable of providing sufficient power and range for the vessel’s intended use. This may require a careful balance between the size and weight of the electric motors and battery banks, and the available space and weight capacity on the vessel. In addition, the power management and distribution systems must be carefully designed and integrated to ensure safe and efficient operation of the vessel.
  • The need to accommodate the charging and battery management infrastructure required for the new system. This may involve installing on-board charging stations, as well as shore-based charging infrastructure at ports and other locations where the vessel will be operating.
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It is possible to convert an existing fuel-powered ship to an electric motor system, but it can be a complex and expensive process. The feasibility of such a conversion depends on various factors, such as the size and type of the ship, the availability of appropriate electric motor technology, and the cost-benefit analysis of the conversion.

There are companies that specialize in ship electrification and retrofitting services, such as MAN Energy Solutions, ABB, and Wärtsilä. These companies provide a range of solutions, from hybrid electric systems to fully electric propulsion, and can work with ship owners to determine the best approach for their specific vessel and operational needs.