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Hybrid and battery-powered ferries at Stena Line

A bridge to electrification of ferries is hybrid power – where a ferry is powered partially by batteries, but otherwise by conventional engines. It’s a solution that enables taking advantage of benefits of batteries, whilst overcoming some of their current challenges in powering larger systems.

 

Stena Line is one of Europe’s leading ferry companies and is pioneering battery hybrid technology as part of its ambitions to reduce its environmental footprint.

 

Northvolt spoke with Erik Lewenhaupt, Head of Sustainability at Stena Line, about the company’s initiatives to advance cleaner ferries.

 

“Driving Stena’s move towards clean power is sustainability, customer demand and coming regulation. Most of all we have a head owner who is intent on making a difference.”

 

“We believe that the future of sustainable marine transport will require a wide range of fuel solutions, but electricity is one important part, where the range of solutions will stretch between fully electric to hybrid.”

 

Noting that most of Stena’s ferry fleet is composed of larger vessels, Erik said: “Hybrid is the most likely solution with the battery technology we see today. However, we see business opportunities on shorter routes, where we have better use of the batteries.”

 

Stena’s ambitions have led to development of its flagship battery hybrid ferry, Jutlandica, which in October 2018 completed its first month of operation, operating on a route between Frederikshavn in Denmark and Gothenburg in Sweden with a sailing time of around 3 hours and 30 minutes.

 

 

With capacity for 1,500 passengers and 550 cars, Jutlandica is considerably larger than Norled’s Ampere in Norway – the world’s first fully-electric ferry which was highlighted in an earlier post ‘A revolution at sea – the challenges and opportunities of electrifying maritime industries’.

 

Erik described the Jutlandica’s 1 MWh battery power solution, saying: “The battery is based around lithium ion NMC chemistry, which is most suitable for our application. It’s a containerized solution from Callenberg/Corvus which is charged from shore when in port and through peak shaving from the auxiliary engines during sailing.”

 

“The battery can supply up to 3 MW instantaneously and reduces emissions and noise, as well provides a safety back-up. It has been very popular among our crew on-board.”

 

Presently, the battery system replaces one or two auxiliary engines when the Jutlandica is manoeuvring in port and is used for powering ventilation, heating and other systems on the vessel.

 

The environmental savings from this use of battery power to reduce generator usage amounts to approximately 500 tons of fuel saved and 1,500 tons of reduced CO2, corresponding to the annual emissions of around 600 cars.

 

 

But this is only step one in a three-step plan. A second step will see around 20 MWh battery power connected to two of the four primary machines, allowing Jutlandica to run on electrical power for about 10 nautical miles.

 

As for step three, Erik explained: “With step three, Stena will look towards connecting a larger battery system to all four primary machines of a vessel much like the Jutlandica. Rather than retrofit the Jutlandica, it’s likely that this step would involve a newbuild ship because of the larger capacity battery system that is required [around 50 MWh]. We expect the ship will be able to cover the 50 nautical miles between Sweden and Denmark.”

 

Erik adds to this future outlook, saying: “We aim to gradually increase the number of hybrid solutions similar to the one on Jutlandica, as well as their capacity. And to introduce Stena’s first fully electric ship by 2030.”

 

Considering our being in the early years of the electrification of ferries, the use of hybrid solutions is quite understandable. The approach extends the scope of ferry applications that battery systems can support, thereby allowing for significant reduction in ferry emissions. At the same time, it enables ferry operators and developers to test and evaluate battery performance in a stepwise approach.

 

Erik suggests that widespread deployment of fully electric ferries, certainly for larger ferries, requires further innovation.

 

“Development of these solutions is in early stages, and there are some challenges. Each ship and marine battery solution is unique and as such prices have been high. Battery weight and volume can also be a challenge if competing with cargo space. In general, lifecycle and cost of batteries are the two main challenges. Costs must come down to the same level as for the automotive industry.”

 

Looking forward, however, Erik’s outlook is optimistic. “As both the size and cost of batteries decrease, battery operation is becoming a very attractive alternative to traditional fuel for shipping, and in the long term it could be possible to completely eliminate emissions in the future.”

 

It’s worth noting that facilitating the deployment of electric ferries requires not only changes on ferries themselves, but also onshore investments at ports and harbours.

 

“Charging obviously needs to be quick as ferries are on a timetable, sometimes operating with a short turnaround,” said Erik.

 

For this, effective charging infrastructure is necessary – a circumstance that is mirrored in the very same situation seen with deployment of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

 

“And of course, electricity needs to be green and competitive compared to regular fuel,” Erik added.

Securing a robust European ecosystem for Li-ion battery recycling

With the advent of electric transportation, we are rapidly moving towards a future dependent on Li-ion batteries. A responsible and modern approach to this industrial revolution must involve establishing a sustainable model for Li-ion battery manufacturing. However, that approach cannot end with manufacturing. Instead, it must extend to incorporate battery recycling as a fundamental aspect of a sustainable electric vehicle (EV) industry.

 

Batteries are, after all, systems which simultaneously require considerable amounts of energy to produce and valuable natural resources – points which underscore the importance of adopting an environmentally sound approach to their manufacture and end-of-life handling.

 

Northvolt is pioneering a green battery – a concept that begins with a blueprint for sustainable Li-ion battery manufacture, but extends into a fully built-out, robust ecosystem for recovery and recycling of batteries.

 

Use of the term ‘ecosystem’ is appropriate because of the complex, multi-layered nature that this new industry will assume.

 

There is, for instance, the requirement for interaction and collaboration between varied actors including consumers, automobile industries and battery manufacturers. There are a variety of technologies involved as well – several of which remain under development. Equally, recycling activities will have to be coordinated across widely distributed geographic regions, over timespans involving many years given the anticipated lifespans of batteries.

 

Of course there are already solutions available to support the recycling of Li-ion batteries. And despite misconception surrounding the issue, most Li-ion batteries used today are indeed recovered and recycled. Some 97,000 tonnes of Li-ion batteries were recycled last year alone – mostly in China and South Korea.

 

While this is encouraging, it does not mean that Europe is sufficiently prepared for handling recycling of Li-ion batteries through the forthcoming decades. The emergence of huge volumes of Li-ion batteries onto global markets to power EVs changes the dynamics of battery recycling substantially.

 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019 suggests that by 2040, 57% of all passenger vehicle sales, and over 30% of the global passenger vehicle fleet, will be electric. Aside from a sheer increase in recycling capacity which will be required, new challenges stem from the introduction of novel EV battery systems which are quite different in form and chemistry compared to those batteries found in portables.

 

Today, the vast majority of recycled batteries come from portable electronics which are recycled as electronic waste from consumer goods including used laptops and mobile phones. Accessing the batteries within these products is relatively straight-forward from a recycling perspective and their recovery from consumers benefits from existing national-level electronic waste disposal schemes.

 

The situation is quite different with EV battery packs, which are much larger, more complex in design and build, and feature Li-ion cells based around new chemistries. Moreover, Europe simply has not yet implemented comprehensive recovery schemes of the type which will facilitate effective European recycling.

 

So what consequences do these new dynamics carry for recycling?

 

To begin with, we need to establish smart, efficient and safe ways to recover batteries once they reach the end of their life. EV owners cannot simply remove their battery pack and place it into an electronic waste collection point in their local community. The issue of recovery likely requires digital tools to identify and locate batteries when they reach end-of-life, as well as practical solutions for collection and storage of batteries prior to recycling, and finally transport to recycling stations.

 

Once battery packs are recovered, we need technologies to support early steps of recycling which involve discharging batteries and stripping packs down to cell level – something involving removal of external housing which encases the cells. Awareness of these kinds of challenges is important and means we can already begin to think about recyclability of battery packs as we design them.

 

As for the cells themselves, while current recycling technologies do exist – featuring effective hydrometallurgical treatments – these must be refined to ensure that they are optimized for recovery of materials found in modern EV battery cell chemistries, in particular those elements found in so-called active material of cells, including cobalt, nickel, and manganese.

 

 

Considered with this perspective there are clear logistical challenges to recycling of Li-ion batteries in the future. That industry should aim for this whole ecosystem to run efficiently, with the lowest environmental footprint possible, and that there are European regulations governing the transport of Li-ion batteries adds further complexity to the matter.

 

While technology has a large role to play, so does national and international policy. A recent European Commission evaluation of the European Battery Directive, which was established in 2006 as EU legislation to govern the batteries as waste, acknowledges that regulations must be refined to catch up and prepare for the future that is rapidly approaching, stating: “While key circular economy goals are reflected in the directive, such as addressing the supply of materials and recycling, there is still significant untapped potential.”

 

Ultimately, legislation can facilitate recovery, transport and recycling of batteries within Europe, or hinder it.

 

That recycling to recover materials directly supports sustainable practices of battery manufacturers, and that there already exist legal responsibilities of battery manufacturers with respect to duty of care over end-of-life batteries, it is clear that recycling and manufacturing go hand-in-hand.

 

It is encouraging to note therefore that accelerating European recycling capacity is emphasized by the European Battery Alliance (EBA) – an initiative to which Northvolt belongs, established by the European Commission to advance a “comprehensive set of concrete measures to develop an innovative, sustainable and competitive battery ecosystem in Europe.”

 

In relation to recycling, the EBA’s measures highlight the importance of “access [to] secondary raw materials by recycling in a circular economy of batteries.”

 

Top-down support for establishing recycling of Li-ion batteries of this sort will prove vital to the endeavor ahead – just as supportive policy for deployment of renewable energy is proving today. At the same time, however, there is a role to be played by many other stakeholders, private industry actors of energy and automobile sectors and battery manufacturers such as Northvolt.

 

 

Northvolt’s advance of a green battery is tightly tied to developing solutions in response to all of the challenges of recycling. Recycling capacity will yield recovery of materials which will be fed back into the Northvolt’s cell manufacturing loop or otherwise be directed towards other industrial needs. Success will mean a reduced environmental footprint for the EV revolution, a new vibrant industry for Europe and ensure that the pitfalls of the past, where resources have been taken for granted, are avoided.

 

It’s an exciting future. One which can only be secured through a blend of technologies, fresh-thinking and collaboration across industries and effective legislation.

European backing for Northvolt’s battery gigafactory in Sweden

  • In-principle approval of the European Investment Bank to support Northvolts gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells in Skellefteå, Sweden
  • Pending finalization of due diligence and negotiations, the EIB’s financing commitment is foreseen to be EUR 350 million

 

The European Investment Bank has given its in-principle agreement to support the financing of Europe’s first home-grown gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells, Northvolt Ett, in Sweden. Upon conclusion of a loan agreement, the financing would be supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

 

The gigafactory will be established in Skellefteå in northern Sweden – a region home to a prominent raw material and mining cluster which has a long history of process manufacturing and recycling. Noting the region’s clean power base, building the factory in northern Sweden will enable Northvolt to utilize 100% renewable energy within its production processes.

 

EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell noted: “The development of a competitive and green battery value chain within Europe can not only cut greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonizing power generation and transport, but can also help protect millions of well paid jobs in European industries in the face of increasing global competition. The EUR 350 million loan to Northvolt approved in-principle today by our Board of Directors is the largest ever direct EIB financing approval for battery technology, and we look forward to working with Northvolt over the coming months to finalize contracts.”

 

Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, said: “The EIB and the Commission are strategic partners under the EU Battery Alliance. I welcome the significant support proposed by the EIB to Northvolt gigafactory as a stepping-stone towards building a competitive, sustainable and innovative value chain, with battery cells manufactured at scale, here, in Europe. Our two institutions are working closely with the industry and key Member States to put the EU on a firm path towards global leadership in this rapidly expanding sector.”

 

Northvolt Ett will serve as Northvolt’s primary production site, hosting active material preparation, cell assembly, recycling and auxiliaries. The construction of the first quarter of the factory will be completed in 2020. Ramping up to full capacity, Northvolt Ett will produce 32 GWh of battery capacity per year.

 

“This EIB in principle approval is a key moment in the process of finalizing our capital raise to support the establishment of Northvolt Ett. Today, we are one step closer to our goal of building the greenest batteries in the world and enabling the European transition to a decarbonized future,” said Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt.

 

The capital raise, in which this EIB loan would be included, will finance the establishment of the first 16 GWh of battery capacity production. The batteries from Northvolt Ett are targeted for use in automotive, grid storage, and industrial and portable applications.

 

“Today’s decision by the EIB is very gratifying and a big step towards a large-scale battery production in the EU and a fossil free welfare society. The decision shows that there are prerequisites in Sweden for sustainable battery production, it is important for Sweden and the rest of the EU to produce battery materials and battery cells, based on green, Swedish electricity,” said Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation.

 

Background Information

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union, owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. In 2018 alone, the Bank made available a record EUR 1.37 billion in loans for Swedish projects in various sectors, including research & development, industry, nearly-zero-energy-buildings and telecommunications.

 

The EIB is the European Union’s bank; the only bank owned by and representing the interests of the European Union Member States. It works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy and is the world’s largest multilateral borrower and lender. The EIB provides finance and expertise for sustainable investment projects that contribute to EU policy objectives. More than 90% of its activity is in Europe.

 

Northvolt was founded in 2016 with the mission to build the world’s greenest battery cell, with a minimal carbon footprint and the highest ambitions for recycling, to enable the European transition to renewable energy. Northvolt’s team of experts is building the next generation battery cell factory focused on process innovation, scale and vertical integration. Once completed, it will be one of Europe’s largest battery cell factories and produce 32 GWh worth of capacity annually.

 

The Investment Plan for Europe, known as the Juncker Plan, is one of the European Commission’s top priorities. It focuses on boosting investment to generate jobs and growth by making smarter use of new and existing financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects.

 

The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is the main pillar of the Juncker Plan and provides first loss guarantees, enabling the EIB to invest in more projects that often come with greater risks. EFSI has already yielded tangible results. The projects and agreements approved for financing under EFSI are expected to mobilise almost EUR 393 billion in investments and support 945.000 SMEs in the 28 Member States. More information on the results of the Investment Plan for Europe is available here.