Even Cargo Ships Are Going 100% Electric

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But there's a catch...

I've noticed "electrify everything" becoming a mantra among many clean tech observers.

And it makes sense.

As battery costs come down, and as our power grids get cleaner, the idea of everything from home heating to personal transportation going electric holds considerably more appeal. Still, I had assumed that we'd be using liquid fuels in many applications for decades, even centuries, to come. Yet recently, news headlines have started to challenge that assumption.

Whether it's commercial electric flight, 100% battery electric bus fleets or 500-mile range electric trucks, the list of vehicles going electric seems to be growing steadily.

Now we can add another vehicle to that list. Cleantechnica reports that Guangzhou Shipyard International in China has built the world's first 100% battery electric cargo ship. Just as commercial flight will go electric first on short haul flights, electric cargo ships are likely to first be deployed on short distance, fixed coastal routes.

In this case, the ship will carry about 2,200 tons of cargo a distance of 50 miles—traveling at up to 8 miles an hour—along the Pearl River. Unfortunately, the cargo it will be carrying is coal. That's right: The world's first "zero emission" cargo ship will be hopping from power station to power station, delivering one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet to keep those power stations in operation and—presumably—it will be charging up with that same dirty electricity as it does so. (Charging time for the 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery is said to be two hours.)

Still, I do see this as an encouraging step forward. Carbon and soot emissions from cargo ships have long been a concern for environmentalists. So building ships that have the potential to run on clean, renewable energy is a major step forward.

Now we just have to clean the grids that power them, and then find the coal-carrying electric cargo ships of this world something more productive to do.

Here's some footage of the new ship: