Marine Battery Production Making Gains Through Automation
Siemens has built an automated factory using robots to build next-generation marine batteries to power ferries in Norway. (Credit: Kuka Robotics)

Marine Battery Production Making Gains Through Automation

November 9, 2020

Source: AI Trends

In forward-thinking environmental legislation, the Norwegian Parliament in 2018 outlawed harmful emissions from ferries and cruisers operating in its fjords by no later than 2026. This would cover both CO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOX) gases, as well as noise pollution on the water.

The response from local shipping companies and ferry operators was to dramatically accelerate the development and introduction of electrical propulsion systems, including an all-electric ferry, according to a recent account in The Robot Report. The MF Ampere is a fully battery-powered ferry operating between the ports of Lavik and Oppedal, a distance of 4.3 miles. Its batteries are recharged on shore. The ferry experiences a 95% reduction in emissions and an 80% reduction in operating costs compared to its diesel-powered alternatives. These are attractive results to ferry operators.

A critical enabler is the availability of the right type of batteries to power the new all-electric and hybrid powertrains. Siemens rose to the challenge by investing $11.4 million to build a highly-automated battery factory in Trondheim, Norway.

Siemens worked with Intek Engineering of Raufoss, Norway, to provide the robots, 3-D machine vision and system integration required. In business for over 30 years, Intel is a leader in industrial automation in Norway using robotics. The all-electric ferry needs to have a battery capacity of 500 MWh (megawatt-hours), enough to power thousands of homes by comparison. (A one MWh solar power plant can light 1,000 city homes.)

Beyond car and passenger ferries, thousands of fishing boats, cruisers and multi-purpose vessels could benefit by going electric. Thus demand for marine battery sets, and the production capacity to support them, is expected to be dramatic.

Torstein Sole-Gärtner, head of Siemens’ offshore and marine center in Trondheim, Norway

“All car and passenger ferries in Norway will ultimately rely on some form of energy storage solution, and we estimate that there’ll be around 60 hybrid or all-battery powered ferries operating here,” stated Torstein Sole-Gärtner, head of Siemens’ offshore and marine center in Trondheim.

Siemens worked with Intek to build an automated factory that maximizes the use of robots and minimize the number of human workers required. The robots sort the incoming parts that arrive randomly placed on pallets, on cardboard trays and in plastic blister packs. The Trondheim maritime battery production line is set up with eight configurable robot calls, and seven automatic guided vehicles, to handle inter-cell logistics. The line was designed and engineered by Intek over a 12-month period. It handles everything automatically, from the initial picking of component parts to the final battery testing and documentation. The factory has three people working in the production area.

Siemens expects to be able to supply batteries for 150 to 200 ferries annually, equal to a battery module capacity on the order of 400 MWh. The factory can produce the batteries needed for an all-electric ferry in less than four days.

UK Project Testing Flow Batteries for Marine Propulsion

A project in the UK is testing the potential of flow batteries to power maritime vessels. (Flow batteries generate energy by mixing two chemical components dissolved in liquids that are pumped through the system on separate sides of a membrane.) The Flow-Mar project has attracted funding to assess the feasibility of flow batteries to enable zero-emission marine propulsion consistent with goals of the UK’s Clean Maritime Plan, according to a recent account in Maritime Global News.

Preliminary research is showing that flow batteries could be well-site to a range of vessels, including domestic passenger vessels. The Flow-Mar consortium includes: Houlder, naval architects with experience in vessel design; Swanbarton, specialists in energy storage and control technologies for electrical power systems; Lloyd’s Register, a classification society; and Marine South East, a marine cluster with expertise in delivering innovation projects and commercialization road maps.

The global battery market for marine hybrid and full electric propulsion will reach a value of $600 million by 2030, up from some $240 million in 2019, according to a market research report from Transparency Market Research. Drivers for the market include more acceptance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, leading to a shift toward electric vehicles, and innovation in battery systems leading to new opportunities.

Read the source articles and information in The Robot ReportMaritime Global News and from Transparency Market Research