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New Advancements in Marine Technology

Battery technology advancements have been at the forefront of improving the relationship between design and the environment for a long time. Submarines have used batteries to assist their operations and serve as an emergency source of power since before the first world war, and on modern vessels, the risks of toxic leaks or fires have been reduced greatly. 

Though boats and yachts manufactured with standard motors that run on diesel have proven to be more efficient and provide more mileage per gallon, using diesel in commercial and military vessels where power is often lost when accelerating, make emissions unsustainably high for constant use. The only real effective way to make boating a more sustainable and safer experience for people is to transition from using generators and fossil fuels to rechargeable batteries and renewable energy.

Based on the overwhelming evidence of the widespread, long-term effect of fossil fuel usage, the concept of greener and cleaner energy has taken precedence and is the missing link between modern technology and sustainability in the marine industry today. 

While the relationship between energy and weight puts batteries at a disadvantage in comparison to fossil fuels, the rate that battery technology is advancing makes it only a temporary concern. Not only do batteries protect the legacy of boating, but they also protect clear water, air and associated ecosystems which recently have led to a breakthrough in cancer research.

Battery Technology in Marine Applications Today

Four main batteries available for boating today are wet cell, gel cell, absorbed glass mat (AGM) and Lithium batteries. Each of these have a different chemical composition, price range and purpose. 

The most popular among general consumers are lithium batteries, but they are also the most expensive. Large investments have been made to design them at a lower cost and high levels of density and voltage. At the moment, these advancements have been implemented in electric cars – which have paved the way for other industries. 

The development of lithium ion phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) have made lithium batteries more cost effective, as well as reduced the risk of having unbalanced cells (different battery cells at different voltages), which contributes to overheating and overcharging.  These batteries have the ability to detect overheating, isolate cells, and keep the state of the charge balanced across all cells. Unlike lithium batteries, LiFePO4 have less energy density, but they also pose a significantly smaller fire risk if accidentally exposed to high temperatures or failure due to short circuits – which lithium batteries lack.

This is of particular importance in the marine industry because scientists have to develop batteries for boats operating in the water – meaning the chemical compositions are much more advanced than a battery used for the automotive industry. More so, higher safety standards must be met as there are two significantly different scenarios which happen if a battery were to catch on fire in the middle of the ocean, versus on land. 

Similar to consumers in the automotive industry, boaters accustomed to using fossil fuels have a greater fear towards thermal fluctuations that create self-sustaining fires. Any battery management system today has to be designed with a safety power shutoff system to avoid hazards that come with any form of unprecedented changes, such as changes in charge and discharge rates.

Still, lithium batteries are a better alternative to not only fossil fuels, but batteries in their own category, such as wet cell batteries whose downside is acidic spillage.

Marine Technology: A Competitive Market Outlook

The development of a solid-state battery is a competitive concept on the rise. In theory, this sort of battery has no determinable lifespan since it has no moving parts, eliminates the risk of fire and is waterproof. Since this is still being researched, some battery types have come close, including hydrogen fuel cells and graphene supercapacitors.

Other than the energy-cost that is required to manufacture them, the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells is water. This makes them appealing in the low-emission sense, however; the real environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells still depends largely on how they are produced.

Another battery type is the graphene supercapacitor, which stores almost as much energy as a lithium-ion battery, charges and discharges in seconds and maintains all of this over thousands of charging cycles. While it lacks the same appeal when it comes to energy density, if scientists can figure out how to apply this concept and make a battery that has the positives of both, it would mean a large lead in material science and nanotechnology, as well as a new addition to the marine market.

Pelagion Advances Marine Technology With A Battery Energy Storage System

Due to the constant output of carbon monoxide, generators are a continuous health hazard. The slow accumulations of vapors near an open flame of any kind can result in an irreversible destruction of the boat, as can fuel leaking due to aggressive movement on the water result in irreversible destruction of the ecosystem. To combat our dependence on fossil fuels for energy — which contributes to these tragedies – Pelagion has stepped up to offer a more sustainable solution. 

At the moment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the manufacturing process for car engines to ensure that the air leaving the exhaust is clean of impurities that are directly related to illnesses upon exposure and harmful for the environment. Analogous requirements have not been extended towards boats, which leads to excessive pollution in the form of spills, non-burned fuel discharge and emissions. These actions contribute to harmful environmental conditions, such as ocean acidification and cause the overgrowth of algae and other organisms that block sunlight, while also destroying the population of calcifying species (shellfish and corals) necessary to sustain life.

Pelagion operates in a 75,000 sq. ft. clean-tech facility that is powered by a wind turbine, where the production of their marine battery technology is net-zero – the state at which global warming stops. Not only have they met the standard at which the production of any battery is low on emissions, but they have paved the way for the marine industry with the introduction of this technology in the first ever HydroBlade, an electric jet-ski that is the stepping stone to this breakthrough in the marine industry.

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