Wärtsilä, Blackstone Resources, Umicore get EU grants to boost battery-powered maritime transport

by John Shepherd
The M/V Paolo Topic uses Wärtsilä's hybrid engines, solar and battery system. Photo: Wärtsilä
The European Union has awarded grants to EU companies to boost the use of battery technology in maritime transport systems.

Swiss battery metals investor Blackstone Resources, Belgium’s Umicore and Finland's Wärtsilä Corporation are among 13 firms that are receiving a share of the almost €12m (£10.9m) allocated to Current Direct – a new research and innovation project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

According to the Commission, "the vast majority of water transport in Europe is propelled by dirty, noisy diesel engines”.

"By cutting the cost of today’s marine battery electric drivetrains in half and relieving ship owners of the burden of capital expense, Current Direct will enable rapid adoption to reduce greenhouse emissions by 482,000 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year,” the Commission said.

'3D printed cells'

The Commission said Blackstone’s German subsidiary, Blackstone Technology, "is lowering the cost of manufacturing tomorrow’s 3D printed lithium-ion cells using state of the art active materials from Umicore”.

Wärtsilä will develop modular battery containers and charging infrastructure that will be certified to innovative standards by Lloyd’s Register, the Commission said.

The project – which is coordinated by Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel and led by marine battery manufacturer Spear Power Systems – will culminate in a demonstration of the Current Direct battery, shore charging, and asset management platform by Kotug in Rotterdam.

EU data shows that waterborne transport emissions represent around 13% of the bloc’s overall greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

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