The World’s First Electric Autonomous Container Ship To Set Sail In Norway

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Plans for an autonomous, purely electric container ship are making waves internationally as Norway positions itself as a global pioneer in alternative propulsion systems. The ‘Yara Birkeland’ will be the world’s first autonomous electric container ship, and will no doubt change freight transport at sea. It’s been commissioned by the Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer Yara International, which plans to commute with the freighter between ports and thus abandon use of diesel-powered trucks. According to Yara International, the electric ship should able to replace a total of 40,000 truck journeys a year.

Though it’s not a particularly large cargo ship, 70 meters long and 14 meters wide with 120 containers on board, the difference is there won’t be any people on board, which allows for more of the space to be utilized for shipping cargo. The ship will be delivered in 2020 and plans are for it to be fully autonomous and operational by 2022. The software and engineering is to be provided by The Kongsberg Group, a major provider of military technology and autonomous control systems, and the Romanian Vard shipyard will build the freighter itself. The batteries will hold seven and a half to nine megawatt hours — the same as up to 90 batteries from the Tesla Model X P100D. Because battery technology is insufficient for long distances, the ship will only make short routes.

Norway has supported the Yara Birkeland with 133.6 million Norwegian kroner — or just under 14 million euros — which is a sizeable chunk of the total project cost of 27 million euros. The country has been working for years to pioneer electric mobility and to find a way to replace diesel trucks with less toxic alternatives. The Norwegian Forum For Autonomous Ships was established in 2016, as CleanTechnica reported here, and Norway began looking at autonomous electric ships as an ideal solution for Norway’s large coastal shipping network. And because Norway earns much of its money from oil production, they have been cleverly investing some of these profits into innovative projects like the Yara Birkeland. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at the symbolic signing of the contract that she is “proud that the government supported this development.”

There’s still plenty of room for improvement in the realm of electric mobility in water transportation. Investment can cost one million euros or more, depending on the size of the ship, and batteries are both heavy and take up lots of space. Water currents also affect the consumption of energy, making it difficult for electric boats or ships to travel long distances without places to stop and charge. As technology advances, we will hopefully see more and more solutions that will allow ships to travel even longer distances. Who wants to bet that Norway will get there first?

Related stories on CleanTechnica:

Norway Is Looking To Autonomous Electric Ships To Replace Trucks

Electric & Hybrid Ship Technologies Moving Forward… In Norway, Of Course

Feasible To Replace 70% Of Norwegian Ferries With Fully Electric Or Hybrid Ferries (Study)

Jaguar Breaks Speed Record, But Not On Land — With Electric Boat!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Video

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

The Beam

The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

The Beam has 481 posts and counting. See all posts by The Beam