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Posted on February 16, 2011 by  & 

Future of marine electric vehicles

Marine electric craft have recently entered a phase of rapid market growth and radical change. A new IDTechEx report Marine Electric Vehicles 2011-2021 is the world's first comprehensive report on marine electric vehicles with latest ten year forecasts and assessment of important new projects such as submarines that will fly.
The report concentrates on untethered craft on and underwater, inland and at sea, hybrid and pure electric. Marine EVs are of great interest to those making components, systems and powertrains for land and air electric vehicles as well as specialists. This burgeoning new market also interests those making other types of complete electric vehicle who wish to expand their sales by leveraging their expertise.
Global ex factory market value of electric marine craft by sector (US$ billion) in 2011
Source: IDTechEx report Marine Electric Vehicles 2011-2021

Rapid changes and big opportunities

IDTechEx finds that almost everything about electric marine craft is now changing.
Electrically propelled ordnance and tethered vehicles are omitted from the report as are the conventional large military ships and submarines with diesel electric and nuclear electric powertrains. Typically these are not called electric vehicles just as large diesel-electric land locomotives are not referred to in this way either. Nevertheless, military electric marine craft emerge as nearly half of the marine electric vehicle market by value in 2011, mainly due to Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUVs costing up to $5 million each.
This provides niche marketing opportunities for component suppliers. For example, ABSL in the UK is a formidable supplier of specialist lithium-ion traction batteries for military and other uses. Valence Technology in the USA is successfully targeting civil marine traction batteries, notably with family yacht market leader Bénéteau in France. As hybrids abandon internal combustion engine "reciprocaurs" they will use the smaller, more reliable, fuel agnostic mini turbines from Bladon Jets in the UK and others.

Civil applications growing even faster

Civil applications of marine electric vehicles will soon overtake the sales value of military applications because they include a rapidly growing choice of electric workboats such as tugboats reflecting new pollution legislation.
They also include inland waterway boats for up to 150 people, often solar powered, since internal combustion engines are increasingly banned in such locations, Taiwan being the latest country to introduce such laws. Indeed, there is now a rapidly expanding range of electric personal and public leisure craft for both inland and seagoing use. This reflects both user pull and legal push.

On water vs. underwater

IDTechEx forecasts another change where most of the value of electric craft sold today concerns underwater vehicles - mainly AUVs and leisure submarines - but, despite steady growth in sales of these, the IDTechEx report attributes only 35% of the global market value in 2021 to underwater versions. From Callender Designs superyachts with solar sails to Autonomous Underwater vehicles harvesting wave and solar energy, the civil side is on the move.
Global percentage ex factory market value for on-water vs. underwater electric marine craft in 2011
Source: IDTechEx report Marine Electric Vehicles 2011-2021
Partly, this is because of the stronger growth in number and variety electric workboats, including robot boats gathering oil slicks. Then there are leisure boats, with the mainstream enclosed seagoing family yachts becoming hybrid electric, not just super yachts at up to $25 million each and inland craft. Unusually, there are many driving factors here from silent electric leisure boats not disturbing the wildlife to reducing cost of ownership, increasing reliability and performance and so on.
The report forecasts the rapidly growing $2.3 billion market for marine electric vehicles in six sectors. It examines 86 of the rapidly growing 160 or so manufacturers of electric marine craft. However, it also looks at the rapid change in their components. The old glass solar panels are being replaced by two types of flexible, conformal solar cells that permit much more appealing structural designs, including solar sails.
Banks of supercapacitors are starting to appear in some craft, reminiscent of those seen in hybrid buses. More radical advances are in the pipeline such as harvesting heat and use of third generation lithium-ion batteries. Indeed, fuel cells are already in use in some AUVs.

Leaders in energy harvesting

Marine electric vehicles already deploy more forms of energy harvesting than are seen in other electric vehicles.
Seagoing yachts are starting to charge traction batteries by trailing the propeller when under sail and deploying structural solar cells. In other marine craft, electrical energy is harvested from waves, wind and even the energy expended in the gym of some super yachts. It has also been shown how electronically controlled kites can charge marine traction batteries very efficiently and there are other ways the electricity will be created in future.


Records are being set, where those making the much publicised electric cars and their components can learn from marine practitioners. For example, only boats carry up to 150 people on solar power alone. Only seagoing "glider" Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUVs are deployed for years without human intervention, coming to the surface when necessary to harvest electric power from both waves and sun.
Multimode harvesting is increasingly commonplace with water vehicles but not land or air electric vehicles. AUVs from JAMSTEC Japan, CMERI in India and the US Navy have traction batteries storing 80 times the amount of energy stored in the typical car traction battery such as that in the Toyota Prius, so there are huge opportunities for component and material suppliers in the marine electrical sector.
Both hybrid and pure electric tugboats in Canada, the USA and UK out-perform thanks to huge banks of lithium-ion traction batteries and electric motors giving maximum torque from stationary.
Image source: Wired

Unique event - EV Land Sea Air

The unique event looking at the whole electric vehicle picture, including future components, is Electric Vehicles - Land Sea Air. It will take place in Stuttgart Germany June 27-28 as a two day conference and exhibition.
The conference will not be burdened by commercials or uninformative presentations on today's leading electric cars. There will be many lectures and exhibits concerning electric watercraft and their enabling technologies.
Optional Masterclasses and visits to local centres of excellence working on electric vehicles and their components are offered on the day before and the day after this event. There will be an investment session and an awards dinner.
The giant automotive companies with electric vehilce interests take a global view. For example, GM has its Adam Opel and other subsidiaries across the world and Tata of India has Tata Motors Europe and other subsidaairies across the world promoting its electric vehicles. Now smaller automotive companies such as Tara International, Tesla Motors, Peraves, Bluebird Automotive, eCRP and Alke' are also expanding globally with electric vehicles. A similar thing is happening with aerospace companies involved in electric aircraft such as EADS and boat companies, even small ones such as Kopf Solarschiff.
Electric Vehicles - Land Sea Air Europe 2011 has now been renamed from Future of Electric Vehicles Europe 2011 to reflect its unique covering of the whole subject.
Contact Teresa Henry at if you wish to be involved in any way.

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Posted on: February 16, 2011

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