Power of three: MOL begins study into hybrid battery / hydrogen / LNG car carrier

Pictured: industrial hydrogen tanks

Tokyo, Japan-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, also known as MOL, announced today that it has entered into an agreement with e5 Lab to carry out a study into a near zero-emission ship powered by battery electricity and hydrogen fuel cells.

There are few details in the initial announcement and, when FreightWaves called, the appropriate person was not available for an interview.

According to the statement from the Japanese shipping giant, its goal is to create a ship that does not emit carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides or particulate matter when in port, harbor or coastal waters.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere traps heat and causes the Earth to warm and will, if unchecked, lead to catastrophic effects. The other emissions are very detrimental to human, animal and plant health, along with the general ecology. The emissions other than carbon dioxide cause respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and a host of poor health outcomes. Sulfur dioxide can also help form sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, falling back to the ground as acid rain. That’s very detrimental to forestry, aquaculture, agriculture and the general local ecology wherever the rain falls.

MOL and e5 are looking at ships that, when in harbor, would use power that had been stored in large-capacity batteries and/or from hydrogen fuel cells.

Battery-powered vessels are not a new concept and there are various vessels around the world that already do this, although they tend to be tugs and short-sea ships.

However, when the ship is navigating the open sea, it would use a liquefied natural gas-powered generator and the batteries, “resulting in significantly lower emissions than current vessels equipped with diesel engines that run on heavy oil,” the company said.

MOL and e5 will conduct technological and business feasibility studies and, if they obtain positive results, “will move on to the next phase of joint development for a practical hydrogen hybrid PCC based on the results.”

The Japanese shipping company has experimented with alternative-power vessels before. In 2012 it launched the Emerald Ace, a car carrier equipped with solar power generation and batteries.

MOL adds that it is pursuing the “possibility of introducing more extensive and more advanced technologies with the goal of zero emissions.”