Designing an electric cargo ship isn’t as easy as making an electric car—and until recently, most experts would have argued that battery-electric ships weren’t feasible for traveling across oceans. A giant cargo ship might theoretically need a battery that weighs 1.6 billion pounds, more than the ship could carry. But one startup plans to soon begin crossing the Pacific with smaller electric ships that swap batteries at ports along the way, in a system that it says could prove cheaper than shipping with fossil fuels.
“We started with the problem of decarbonizing ocean freight, and finding a way to make it not cost more,” says Steven Henderson, cofounder and CEO of the startup, called Fleetzero, part of the most recent cohort at the tech accelerator Y Combinator. Henderson and cofounder Michael Carter both worked in the shipping industry and saw that there was a major challenge with the industry’s goals to cut emissions: The existing alternatives were far more expensive than the status quo. Ammonia or green hydrogen power, for example, could cost as much as four times more than the heavy fuel oil that ships use today. Engines also had to be redesigned to burn alternative liquid fuels, adding to the cost. “We realized that this isn’t good for the industry if this is our future, and not good for the world if rates go up,” says Carter. The company’s new approach means that customers will see no change to their freight costs.Continue reading… “This startup designed an electric cargo ship to cross the ocean”