BCI Marine bringing electric boat fast chargers to Canada

This content is from Plugboats – “everything electric boats and boating”

It has been quite a year already for Aqua superPower’s network of electric boat fast chargers: expansion to Canada, Italy and Spain coming on the heels of installations with the UK’s largest marina operator.

The mission of Aqua superPower is to “reduce the impact of boating on the marine environment through the development of an all-electric and integrated global ecosystem of marine superchargers.” Theirs are the first superchargers to be specifically engineered and rated for use in marine environments, built to IP65 standards and constructed using Hydro CIRCAL recycled aluminium.

world map of electric boat fast chargers networkThe electric boat fast chargers have AC and DC 25kW-150kW power and can be used for everything from recreational electric and hybrid boats to electric jet-skis, super yacht tenders, commercial vessels and passenger ferries. Aqua will own, operate, and maintain the network with their own cloud-based system and users have an app with maps of charger options and navigational aids to charger locations.

Alex Bamberg, CEO of Aqua superPower, says “In the marine environment, access to charging infrastructure that offers a reliable plug & charge experience, with features like charge point visibility, is absolutely essential if we are to develop the confidence to transition away from polluting liquid carbon fuels.”

Monaco, Mediterranean, MDL and Miami

The first Aqua superPower chargers were installed in 2019 in Monaco, as the flagship in a network extending along the Mediterranean to ports like Cannes and St. Tropez. In 2021 they received a grant from the UK’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and were showcased at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow for their work with the Marine e-Charging Living Lab (MeLL) in Plymouth.

A few weeks later MDL Marinas signed up with Aqua to have the electric boat fast chargers installed at five UK marinas with a total of 1,721 boat berths. There is a big upside to this, as MDL manages over 7,000 berths and operates 20 major marinas and boatyards in the UK and Europe.

In February of 2022 at the Miami International Boat Show‘s new Charged! Electric Pavilion, Aqua superPower was one of the lead exhibitors, along with the Nautique GS22E electric water sport boat and the Vision Marine Technologies E-Motion 180E electric outboard.

Speaking about North American opportunities, CEO Bamberg said “While the marine sector may lag others in terms of deployment, the massive growth of electric vehicles on the highway has proved that electrification is the way forward. The requirement for a joined-up network of reliable and fast marine chargers to create charging hubs and corridors for electric boat users is absolutely crucial if we are to secure the transition away from liquid carbon fuels.”

While there has not yet been a major announcement for an Aqua superPower network in the US market, the expectation is there will be an announcement soon as Aqua partners and expands in other countries.

Electric boat fast chargers for Canada, Italy, Spain

Canada: January 11, 2022

Aqua superPower announced an agreement with BCI Marine to have the superchargers installed at BCI partner locations. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec in central Canada will be the first to receive the chargers, with the first expected to be in place for the launch of the Canadian summer boating season in mid-May.

“We know that for the electric boat market to truly launch in Canada, a conveniently available super charging network is essential” says Patrick Hardy, President of BCI Marine.

“We introduced the all-electric X-Shore EELEX 8000 to the Canadian market last fall, with other electric brands to be launched soon. Other electric boat builders will come to market too, so strategically, BCI Marine taking the initiative to introduce electric boat fast chargers is the right, responsible, and logical next step, for the Canadian consumer, and marine dealers.”

Italy: March 1, 2022

electric boat fast charger on pillar in Venice

In Italy Aqua has announced a strategic partnership 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. They will be working together to install public Type 2 AC charging infrastructure in Venice, other inland waterways and European lakes.

Both e-concept and Aqua superPower were at the Venice e-Regatta last June and their agreement to work together will make a compelling electric boat charging solution for the many installations where environmental, cultural and heritage factors need to be considered.

“We look forward to working with Aqua on the integration of their hardware and software within our product for AC systems and are proud for our technology to be part of the world’s first marine fast charging network.” said Matteo Bartoli, co-founder of e-concept.

Spain: March 3, 2022

The Catalan Association of Tourist Marinas (ACPET) has partnered with Aqua superPower to promote the creation of a network of connected marine fast-charging services for its members, which account for 87% of all port concessions granted in Catalonia.

Representatives from Aqua superPower and ACPET shake hands

Through the partnership, Aqua superPower will supply and install its high-power smart grid marine chargers at no cost to the site owner/operator, creating an infrastructure for electric boats and charging corridors along the 580 km (360 mi) of Catalonia’s coastline.

“At ACPET we want to help our members achieve their sustainability and decarbonization goals. We’re delighted to be partnering with Aqua superPower to be able to support people wishing to make their boating more sustainable by offering rapid charging and network infrastructure for electric boat users across our marinas.” says Albert Bertran, President of ACPET.

Fast electric boat chargers for fast electric boats

This growth by Aqua is definitely impressive, but also just a hint of what is to come. A report from IDTechEx estimates that “the market for hybrid and pure electric boats and ships will rise rapidly to over $20 billion worldwide in 2027“.  Assuming the boat market continues to grow in line with historical trends, it is likely there will be more than 1 million electric boats by 2030. They all need to be charged somewhere!

The other part of the story is that the market for electric boats in the past was largely for low kiloWatt cruising models with owners happy to charge the batteries overnight. There is increasing demand for high power motors and the desire to quickly charge and get back out on the water. (As a quick glance through the ‘Recreational Boats‘ category of Plugboats will show).

As Aqua superPower’s Alex Bamberg points out, “When you’re asking a consumer to make a significant investment in an electric boat, you want to assure them they can have the charging that suits their lifestyle.”

Canada approves 1st lithium-ion commercial passenger boat

Alutasi li-ion fishing boat

A lithium-ion commercial passenger boat that can take up to 25 guests out deep sea fishing in the waters around Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the first such boat to gain safety approval from Canada’s Marine Technical Review Board.

Most recently a diesel powered whale watching/harbour tour boat, the 44 footer is owned by Ambassatours Gray Line and was converted by Glas Ocean Electric with financial assistance and grants from a variety of public and private sources, including Nova Scotia Power and Canada’s national Research Council.

Alam SyleboyAlong with the propulsion makeover she received a bright hull mural depicting various ocean animals designed by world renowned indigenous artist Alan Syliboy of the Mi’kmaq (pronounced meeg mah) First Nations. The vibrant images, inspired by Mi’kmaq petroglyphs, were made into a hull wrap by Mattatall Signs. The new name of the boat, ‘Alutasi‘ is Mi’kmaq for ‘a boat that guides to the best fishing’

The launching of the boat also paid tribute to the Mi’kmag. Instead of the traditional bottle of champagne being broken across the bow, she received a smudge blessing in a traditional Water Protector Ceremony led by elder Dorene Bernard.

Lithium-ion commercial passenger boat a team effort

It took 17 months for the refit. The team was led by Dr. Sue Molloy, who has been CEO of Glas Ocean Electric for the past four years and is well known internationally for her work in the marine renewable energy sector.

Next door to Halifax, a solar ferry conversion underway in Anne of Green Gables country

She also does research work on tidal power in her role as an Adjunct Professor at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, also home to the research team of  Tesla’s lithium battery guru Jeff Dahn.

Speaking about the safety certification for a lithium-ion commercial passenger boat, Dr. Molloy told Bill Spurr of the Halifax Chronicle Herald “It was quite an involved process because Transport Canada has strict regulations around safety when passengers are involved. We could’ve just gone with a fishing vessel and had fewer rules to deal with, but because this is a passenger vessel there is a lot more stringency.”

Classic Atlantic Coast lobster fishing design

The boat is a Cape Islander, a well known style of fishing boat in Eastern Canada, with a distinctive step up to the bow. Glas Ocean worked with a variety of partners, including E.Y.E. Marine Consultants, Canadian Maritime Engineering, Sterling PBES Energy Solution and Danfoss Editron to design and install a parallel hybrid electric system that incorporates the existing diesel motor.

electric inboard motorThere was a big desire for an all electric system, but hybrid was chosen partly for safety back-up reasons and also because the Alutasi has to navigate two very different types of waters each trip – those of the Halifax Harbour and the deep fishing waters of the Atlantic Ocean itself. The diesel will be used for fast transit in the harbour and the electric motor for the majority of each trip.

The day trip fishing tour was chosen as the ideal application for the Alutasi the boats always come back for shore charging.

One of Glas Ocean’s main goals is to show people the potential of electric boats. The owner of the boat, Ambassatour Gray Lines, has a significant fleet and Molloy is confident this will show them that for other sightseeing boats they can “do a tour in the morning, charge up  and do another tour in the afternoon.”

Talks are underway with one of the funders, Nova Scotia Power, to put Level 2 and Level 3 chargers on the city’s docks for all electric boats.

Reduced greenhouse gases and noise

One of the companies that provided reduced rates and in-kind contributions for the project is underwater noise research company JASCO Applied Sciences.

Alutasi electric boat in HalifaxTests have been done on both greenhouse gas and noise emissions using different loads and three different propellers – one new, one in-use and one damaged. It’s estimated that the new system will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% and underwater radiated noise by 40-60% for a typical trip.

Next up on the block for the Glas Ocean team is a fishing boat to be converted completely to electric. They are also talking with other potential clients in Costa Rica and the Caribbean as to electrify boats like the Alutasi that operate near shore.

The payback time is estimated at five to eight years, says Molloy, “but for some operations, if they’re used frequently and year-round, the payback could be in two years.”

BC company’s process for lighter, less expensive lit-ion batteries

A process for lithium-ion batteries that improves conductivity and durability and reduces manufacturing costs could lead to lighter, less expensive batteries, including solid state versions especially relevant for airplanes…and boats.

The ‘One Pot’ process has been developed by  Nano One Materials of Vancouver, Canada, who have been working on it since 2011 with the first proof of concept announced in 2013. Since then they have built a pilot plant, been granted multiple international patents and partnered with companies like Volkswagen and Pulead Technology, one of China’s leading lithium-ion battery cathode producers.

Cathode of lithium-ion batteries is the key

graphic of battery types‘Cathode producer’ is the key here. There are three main parts to a battery – the electrolyte, anode and cathode. The anode (the negative pole of the battery) and electrolyte (the part the ions flow through from one pole to the other) haven’t changed much in a Li-ion battery since 1991. The anode is carbon based and the electrolyte is a lithium salt dissolved in a liquid or gel. On the other hand the cathode (positive pole) has seen a lot of changes and comes in many variations.

The cathode contains lithium mixed with some other metal or combination of metals and the image above –  from an excellent infographic on the Nano One website – illustrates some of them. Two of the most common for lithium ion batteries are Nickel/Manganese/Cobalt (NMC) and  Nickel/Cobalt/Aluminum (NCA) while a LiFePo4 battery has a Lithium Iron Phosphate version.

There is no ‘perfect’ combination of chemicals, each has some advantages but also disadvantages. Cobalt, for instance, is not only expensive, but includes ethical issues because of the treatment of miners in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some cathodes charge quickly but heat up faster than others. Other combinations develop dendrites, stalactites of microscopic needles that can cause all kinds of problems over time.

As we wrote last week, Samsung is one company working on the dendrite issue, but their research is limited to one kind of chemistry in the cathode. The Nano One difference is that it can improve the performance – and lower the manufacturing costs – for all kinds of cathode chemical combinations.

Nano One process coats individual crystals

One of the current methods for addressing some cathode deficiencies is coating the cathode materials. Among other things coating can help improve the flow of ions in and out of the cathode and means metals like metals like nickel can replace some of the cobalt.

diagram of coated clumpsWhat the Nano One process does is take that a step further, by coating individual nano-crystals in the cathode material, not clumps of the material. It is called the ‘One Pot Process’ because it also does it in a different way. To be simplistic, all of the cathode metals can be mixed together with the coating material and everything ‘cooked’ all at once in a kiln. The standard process requires two kiln firings over a course of days while the one pot process only takes a few hours.

The Nano One website explains that the coated clusters made with the standard process (Left, above) are prone to cracking and degradation from battery assembly and repeated charging, especially at high voltage. The One Pot Process (Right) coats each individual particle – nano-crystal – for better durability and longer battery life.

Solid state batteries for airplanes, boats

Solid State Batteries (SSBs) is where the ‘lighter’ part of the battery equation comes in. SSBs are the big goal in electric cars, because they can hold more energy in the same space as a liquid or gel sort. Solid state batteries using LMN (Lithium/Manganese/Nickel) cathodes hold big promise for electric airplanes, partly because they would also use ultrathin and light lithium metal anodes. But there are challenges.

clumps operating within batteryNano One’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Stephen Campbell, says the largest single challenge “is to design a stable and commercially viable interface between the solid electrolyte, of polymer, ceramic or glass composition, and the solid cathode and anode materials on either side of this electrolyte”. Nano One and (unnamed) automotive companies recently announced that tests they performed on solid state batteries of differing compositions had ‘positive results’.

In some ways, aviation batteries are more akin to what marine propulsion needs because  airplanes and boats both need to ‘float’. One of the encouraging aspects of these SSB tests is that the One Pot Process looks like it can reduces costs. The single kiln firing is one advantage and the other is that the nano-particle coating makes nickel a viable and cheaper alternative to cobalt.

The road to market viability

Whenever we write about batteries it is important to say that it is a long journey from the drawing board and test results to something available to consumers. Nano One has a strategy, though, that might speed up that process.

The company’s business model does not include doing the processing of the materials themselves. Instead they will license the technology to companies like VW, Pulead and potentially others, who presumably already have the factories, personnel and distribution channels to get it to market fairly easily.

Big power boost for torqeedo motors, batteries

Germany-based torqeedo definitely makes the most stylish electric boat motors available and is a leader in performance durability as well.

Now they have increased the power on their top-end Deep Blue line of inboard and outboard motors with the introduction of 100kW motors. The 100kW motors are comparable to a 150HP fossil fuel motor.

The motors come in two versions: a low-rpm version for displacement boats and a high-rpm version for planing boats.

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More powerful batteries developed with BMW

In addition, the company has launched an upgraded, higher capacity 40 kWh battery that features 30% more capacity in the same footprint and an energy density of 144 Wh per kg.

The battery has been developed in the course of adapting BMW’s i3 electric car batteries for the marine market. Among other things, the companies are partners in the ‘Malizia’, a 60’ racing yacht being optimized for the world’s toughest solo sporting competition, the Vendee Globe in 2020.

http://compositesmanufacturingmagazine.com/2018/05/bmw-torqeedo-emission-free-drive-system-vendee-globe/

The 30% increase in energy and energy density will also extend to torqeedo’s 24V batteries, used for their line of outboard ‘Cruise’ motors. Based on the new capacity, the 24V battery gets a new name: Power 24-3500, featuring an impressive energy density of 138 Wh per kg.