The first e-boat charging network in the United Kingdom has been switched on – a series of high power DC electric boat charging stations in prominent locations along the perimeter of the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.
The network of chargers by Aqua superPower includes the world’s first 150kW charging facility at the Mount Batten ferry station, the UK’s first 75kW site at Queen Anne’s Battery, and a 25kW installation at the Barbican landing stage.
Aqua worked with the Marine e-Charging Living Lab (MeLL) initiative, a consortium led by the University of Plymouth in partnership with Plymouth City Council and luxury yacht builder Princess Yachts, whose headquarters and shipyard cover over a million square feet (836k sq m) in Plymouth.
The plan is to extend the network with installations now being developed along the city’s waterfront, followed by additional sites that have been identified in Devon and Cornwall, with a goal of electric charging facilities placed every 10 miles along England’s southern coastline.
Responds to UK’s Clean Maritime Plan 2050
The various levels of chargers are suitable for electric boats and vessels of all sizes and the project directly responds to the UK government’s Clean Maritime Plan 2050 and its 2035 goal of 100% clean electricity throughout the countries.
One of the most important aspects of the network is that it puts in place the infrastructure to help convince commercial enterprises in particular that making the switch from diesel to electric power is cost-effective and time-effective.
Sarah Fear, Project and Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Plymouth and lead of the MeLL project, (see video at bottom of page) said: “This charging network is a game-changer for Plymouth’s forward-thinking marine enterprises, and our ongoing research in this field is enabling the city and region to blaze a trail in clean maritime innovation.”
Research by the University, carried out during the planning stage of the project, has shown it has the potential to reduce port emissions by 96.60% in the next 30 years. As a result it could significantly cut the maritime sector’s impact on the climate, and reduce the damage caused by harmful gases on both human and environmental health.
“It is the realization of an important project that started at the end of last year to further Plymouth’s reputation as a centre of excellence in clean maritime innovation.” said Alex Bamberg, CEO of AQUA superpower. “In deploying our dedicated marine fast charge network, we are creating the right landscape towards decarbonisation of the marine environment.”
Nick Smith, Head of Product Planning at Princess Yachts, says “Princess has an ambitious sustainability roadmap and while a full battery electric yacht above 12m or so may not be feasible with existing technology, the MeLL project and its legacy has real world relevance and benefit to the growing interest we see in hotel service batteries and hybrid propulsion.”
The speed of DC electric boat charging
One of the main keys to the Aqua superPower network is that the chargers are DC – Direct Current. The DC capability is especially important for boats with large batteries, and is going to be increasingly important as more and more boats – both recreational and commercial – go electric.
A quick primer on charging: Direct Current means that the electricity goes from point A to point B – from the negative pole to the positive pole – directly and continuously in a straight line. In Alternating Current / AC, the electrical flow reverses polarity at a specified rate per second, hence ‘Alternating’. The electrical current still flows ‘through’ your motor or lightbulb or whatever it is powering, and appears to be moving from point A to B, but it is actually alternating.
Some things are designed to work with DC, other things are designed to work with AC. When it comes to batteries, all batteries are a DC system. Unfortunately, the power grid that supplies the electricity to all of our homes and businesses is AC.
The thing that is needed to get AC electricity to charge a DC battery is a converter. If you have a laptop computer, you have a converter that converts the AC from your home plug to the DC of your computer’s battery to recharge it.
Most electric boats can charge from a standard AC marina pillar, using the same concept as your laptop – the converter is in the charger that came with the boat’s system. That is great for overnight or extended period charging, but the larger the converter the faster it can convert the current and charge the battery – and the boat system itself can only have a charger of a certain size.
The DC chargers from Aqua superPower are housed in fully sealed, IP-65 rated stations with large converters inside them capable of charging your electric boat battery’s extremely quickly. The number of kiloWatts of the charger indicates the speed: 25kW (fast), 75kW (really fast) and 150 kW – which charges nearly 40X faster than charging from the standard AC pillar at a marina. (If the user prefers, the Aqua units can also operate in AC.)
Aqua partnering with major e-boat manufacturers.
These latest installations are another step in Aqua superPower growing and building out its network of chargers and associated services. In addition to the charging units the company offers users a smartphone app that provides important real time information on network status and other services including navigation and billing.
The company has recently announced new strategic partnerships with Swedish electric boat manufacturer X Shore of Sweden and Norway’s Evoy, which manufactures high power electric inboard and outboard motor systems up to 600kW (≈ 800 hp).
Evoy has worked with utilities and others in Norway to initiate high speed charging in that country, especially for use in the off shore aquaculture industry. With Aqua they will be working together on a broader field. Both Evoy and Aqua have adopted the universal electric vehicle Combined Charging System (CCS), which uses connectors to provide power up to 350 kilowatts – lightning speed.
Leif A. Stavøstrand, CEO of Evoy says, “In Norway we have seen that proprietary charging networks, such as Tesla, have been much less of a competitive edge than originally thought. This is one of the reasons Evoy decided to partner with Aqua superPower, where the focus of their marine fast charging network is on interoperability, safety, and accessibility to all electric boat users. Between us we look forward to working together to accelerate the adoption of e-boating and cutting greenhouse gases.”
Jenny Keisu, CEO of X Shore says, “At X Shore we rely on, and trust in, industry collaborations. Partnership is the new leadership, and we need to collaborate in order to speed up the green transition. Aqua superPower has extensive experience in creating reliable cloud-based public charging networks and their rapid progress in building marine charging corridors will have an accelerated effect on the much-needed shift to electric boats.”
DC high speed charging network growing rapidly
Aqua superPower introduced its first high speed DC electric boat charging station at the Monaco Yacht Club in 2019, the cornerstone of a network that runs along the Côte d’Azur to St. Tropez and Cannes. This past year, it was an integral part of the first St. Tropez Electric Boat Show where it enabled boats like the X Shore Eelex, Vita X and SAY Carbon 29E to quickly get charged for multiple on-water demonstrations.
As the desire for high power high speed electric boats grows, so does the demand for high speed charging. As noted above, the Plymouth initiative was started over a year ago, and in the past few months Aqua has announced :
- New installations with MDL Marina at five UK marinas with a total of 1,721 berths. MDL manages over 7,000 berths and operates 20 major marinas and boatyards in the UK and Europe.
- An agreement with BCI Marine in Canada to have the superchargers installed at BCI partner locations, beginning in the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
- A strategic partnership in Italy with e-concept, creators of the electric boat chargers that have been designed to look like the traditional wooden mooring posts – ‘palina’ – used for centuries on the canals of Venice.
- The creation of a network of connected marine fast-charging services for the members of the Catalan Association of Tourist Marinas (ACPET) in Spain, which account for 87% of all port concessions granted in Catalonia.