Carbon-Free Ships: The EVs of the Seas?

Pratt's Energy Law Report

In this article, the author considers the cost and environmental impacts of carbon-free ships.

Much has been made of the future of electronic vehicles (“EVs”). Governments around the world are setting ambitious goals for EVs based on the notion that the vehicles themselves are carbon-free and thus a climate-friendly alternative to internal combustion vehicles. Among other things, the prospect of millions of EVs has supercharged the battery industry and spurred efforts to develop new energy storage technologies. So why not electric vessels, or vessels which are in other respects carbon-free?

There are many obvious differences between EVs and oceangoing vessels: size, weight, distance traveled, water resistance, etc. Nonetheless, there is no inherent limitation on using an electric propulsion system for a vessel; it is more a matter of scale rather than feasibility. The real issues are cost (capital and operating) and, just as important, the net environmental impacts.

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“Carbon-Free Ships: The EVs of the Seas?” by Frederick M. Lowther was published in the May 2020 edition of Pratt’s Energy Law Report (Vol. 20, No. 5), an A.S. Pratt Publication, LexisNexis. Reprinted with permission.

This article was first published in the March 2020 edition of Mainbrace, Blank Rome's quarterly maritime newsletter.