Current Direct is a new research and innovation project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program that will revolutionize the way we move goods and people by water with the use of swappable containerized batteries connected to an Energy as a Service Platform.
Waterborne transport emissions represent about 13% of the overall European greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, with the potential to increase between 50% and 250% by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario, undermining the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In line with the Paris Agreement goals, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in 2018, stipulated a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission strategy aiming to reduce GHG emissions from the waterborne transport sector by at least 50% by 2050. Given such ambitious goals alongside new and emerging zero-emissions energy technologies, reinvigorating the sector with actionable and affordable approaches is a necessity.
Current Direct addresses EU challenges by developing and demonstrating an innovative, interchangeable waterborne transport battery system and an Energy as a Service (EaaS) Platform in an operational environment in the Port of Rotterdam. Current Direct will consider its integration across the range of different vessel types used in the coastal and inland waterway transport industry, including short to medium range freight and ferry services. The system being developed will allow Current Direct to reach the following objectives:
- Significantly reduce the total lifetime cost of waterborne transport batteries by 50% through novel materials, manufacturing processes and optimized components.
- Cut GHG emissions of the marine transport sector through electrification of existing and future vessel fleets.
- Increase the installed energy of containerized energy storage systems by 300% compared to currently available systems.
- Trigger investments for innovation, employment, and knowledge creation in the European marine transport and battery energy storage sectors
Project’s Impacts at EU level
- The principal impact should be to substantially reduce the lifetime cost of large waterborne battery systems and to enhance the competitiveness of European industry within the waterborne battery market.
- Cut greenhouse gas emissions from waterborne transport.
- Increase the European skills base in large battery technology and manufacturing processes.
- Support European jobs and growth.
- Increase confidence in waterborne battery technology investment.
- Speed up the transition of most short-range freight and ferry services towards zero emission.
Current Direct is divided into five major phases.
- Phase 1’s goal is to build solid requirements specifications to develop a business model and standardization to facilitate the commercialization of the Current Direct’s ecosystem.
- Phase 2 corresponds to the development phase where project components will be designed and tested against their requirements specifications.
- Phase 3 will consist of a comprehensive analysis into current standards to develop a standardized certification methodology for energy storage systems (ESS).
- Phase 4 will consist of system integration testing to ensure all physical and virtual aspects of the Current Direct ecosystem cohesively integrate.
- Phase 5 will demonstrate the Current Direct ecosystem in action on an operating vessel supported by Kotug through the duration of 2023 at the Port of Rotterdam.
Furthermore, a commercialization roadmap will be developed to define the strategy to boost the commercial readiness of Current Direct.
The Current Direct demonstrator aims to validate the waterborne transport battery system and EaaS cloud platform in a real environment at the Port of Rotterdam.
The demonstrator site will be located close to an existing dock, allowing the use of port infrastructures already in place such as cranes, a sufficient grid connection for the Current Direct charging station and preferably access to renewable electricity provided by local sources such as windfarms, solar and micro-grid.
The demonstration and monitoring activities will continue for one year, with particular attention devoted to replicability of the concept and experiences. Data collected during the demonstration period will be openly shared
The modular built E-Pusher™, currently in use as a waste transport barge and operating about 2300 h/year, will host an innovative technological solution consisting of a 3 MWh containerized waterborne battery that can be easily integrated on board within 5 minutes due to the novel swap-and-carry concept. The vessel is operated by KOTUG CityBarge (www.citybarge.eu).
The stored electricity will serve as a power supply for the auxiliary systems or will directly power the propeller engine offering an alternative to conventional combustion systems.
A consortium formed from 13 partners across Europe’s maritime economies covering the entire marine electrification value chain from battery cell materials to vessel operators, will develop Current Direct project with a cooperative mindset aiming for a solution to a more efficient and sustainable operation and management of the vessel fleets.