UK and Canada beginning joint electric vessel two-way charging project

In a big step forward for electric propulsion of all descriptions, the CAN-UK Vessel-to-Grid Project is bringing together multiple organizations on both sides of the Atlantic to prove the benefits and advantages of electric vessel two-way charging.

Two-way charging, bi-directional charging, Vessel-To-Grid, V2G (the term that will be used in this article)…they all mean the same thing. It is technology that allows the electrons in boat batteries to flow to the electric grid on shore, and vice versa.

It means that when a boat has a full battery but no need to use the electricity immediately, the energy can be distributed in the immediate area – to the marina or port – or to the wider world through the general grid to help power offices, factories and homes.

Electric vessel two-way charging a ‘win-win-win’

It’s a win-win-win scenario that optimizes efficiency for the vessel owners, marinas, ports, utility companies…and any business or consumer that uses electricity. In short, everyone.

What makes this particular project even more exciting is the transatlantic partnership. Bi-directional chargers will be deployed for electric vessels in both Plymouth (UK), and Halifax (Canada), which has Canada’s deepest harbour. Real-world installations will feature V2G capabilities in both software and hardware, onshore and aboard the vessels.

The dual locations, with their contrasting environmental and operational conditions, will demonstrate the bi-directional energy flow to and from the vessel batteries, highlighting their capacity to perform key energy services and enhance energy security.

Here is a quick rundown of the companies and organization involved:

UK – Plymouth

  • Aqua superPower is installing, operating and monitoring the two-way chargers.
  • RS Electric Boats will be building the vessels
  • RAD Propulsion will be supplying the electric drives
  • The University of Plymouth will provide their expertise in marine electrification and battery chemistry.

Canada – Halifax, Nova Scotia

  • BlueGrid, a Halifax-based marine V2G software provider, is working with:
  • COVE (Center for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship), a Halifax marine technology hub
  • Lennox Island First Nation, who will be deeply involved in skills training, and
  • Dalhousie University, home of the Jeff Dahn Research Group, which has an exclusive research collaboration with Tesla for battery development.

On the UK side funding is coming from Innovate UK, part of UKRI, the UK Research and Innovation science and research funding agency . Canadian funding is coming in part from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, which has almost 600 members from a wide spectrum of sectors including aquaculture, marine renewables, defence, transportation and ocean technology.

Building momentum for path to broad market usage

The transatlantic consortium will co-develop a V2G ecosystem, supporting V2G standards integration, battery R&D, and energy market alignment. It will create relationships, intellectual property, foster commercial partnerships and build momentum for paths to broader market implementation in the UK, Canada and other regions. Universities and commercial partners will gain from ongoing R&D collaborations.

Everyone agrees that V2G will be a huge factor in the future of electric boats and vessels, but like so many things, the difficult part is getting to that future. One of the reasons this project is so important and exciting is that the companies involved in both countries have already been working on V2G and can now combine their knowledge and experience.

Read: Aqua superPower switches on UK’s 1st DC electric boat charging network

Aqua superPower was a leader in creating the UK’s first high power DC electric boat charging network, started in prominent Plymouth locations in May of 2022. The company has worked with RS Electric and RAD Propulsion on other marine charging pilots since then, most recently the Virtual Bunkering for Electric Vessels (VBEV) – which is another Innovate UK project.

Read: UK’s new Vessel to Grid virtual-bunkering project

In Halifax, BlueGrid announced about a year ago that they were working on a V2G pilot with ABCO Boats, Norway’s Evoy electric drives and V2G charging system manufacturer BorgWarner. The first successful test was completed a few weeks ago, on May 30th.

“This is a world-first for the electric boating industry and a key milestone in the maritime sector’s transition to electric,” said Leif Stavøstrand, CEO of Evoy at the time. BlueGrid CEO Andrew Boswell expanded on that, saying the achievement “demonstrates our commitment to building data and intelligence solutions that forge pathways from vessel owners to electricity grids, enabling those participating to achieve financially rewarding net-zero goals together.”

Read: Evoy, BlueGrid team up for Canadian vessel to grid charging and storage

The data is a key part of  everything. The V2G chargers need to monitor the needs of both sides of the system – the boats and the on-shore grid – accumulate information, then use that to devleop algorithms and optimize everything for all involved.

One of the key things is that electric vessels, can cost-effectively bridge gaps in wind and solar electricity generation by providing grid support during peak electricity supply and demand periods without negatively impacting vessel operations.

Electric vessel two-way charging monitoring screen

The other key factors are two cost equations: the financial equation and the carbon equation. No matter how one looks at it, the battery in any electric boat or vessel is a significant investment. The more it can be put to use the better – and if that use also is an income generator, so much the better.

There is also a significant amount of carbon involved in building a battery when you look at a life-cycle assessment – all of the carbon emitted along the production steps from the machines that dug up and forged the materials, transported the materials, transported the finished product, etc.

The more the battery is used, the lower the carbon per kiloWatt hour. We say that a battery has a capacity of X kilowatt hours, but that is not exactly accurate. If the battery can be charged/discharged 1,000 times, the storage capacity is actually X,000 kWh, and the carbon impact per kWh is dramatically less than the carbon impact of burning fossil fuel to release that amount of energy.

The CAN-UK is a great pathway to the future for electric boats and vessels of all sizes. One of the benefits is that as V2G is developed further, it will do it at the same time as the entire marine charging infrastructure is being developed. The marinas, ports and others that are looking at installing high speed charging will also be able to include V2G capabilities from the outset.

Aqua superPower   RS Electric Boats  RAD Propulsion

BlueGrid  ABCO  Evoy  BorgWarner

Exciting things are happening every day in electric boats and boating.
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