Power Conversion Technology Inc. (PCTI) is very excited to announce a new coventure relationship with battery manufacturer Sterling Plan B Energy Solutions (SPBES). SPBES, located in Vancouver Canada, makes large battery banks focused chiefly on the shipping industry, they provide energy storage systems that power hybrid and electric ships: ferries, tugboats, and other working vessels. PCTI and SPBES are well positioned to work hand in hand as PCTI has extensive experience providing high power solutions for maritime applications such as Battery Chargers, DC Power Supplies, and Shore Power Solutions for a variety of maritime needs.
SPBES is a Next Generation Hybrid Electric Marine Solutions Provider
Until now, lithium ion batteries have been competing with traditional lead-acid batteries for market share and acceptance in the e-vehicle sector. However, SPBES has created a modular lithium ion battery product line that is the next logical step in industrial applications that demand plug and play. No longer are engineers and maintenance staff required to wire up individual battery cells, building their own storage systems. SPBES systems are self-contained, modular units designed for maximum life, low maintenance, quick replacement, and safety.
Cutting Edge Engineering
The engineering that went into SPBES’s rack systems and CanPower systems is interesting and smart. The resistance to integrating lithium ion batteries into e-vehicles has been waning, thanks in part to safety improvements achieved in recent years.
Lithium ion batteries are subject to thermal runaway. Just a small portion of the chemical matrix decomposing has traditionally spelled disaster because the decomposition rate and temperature are locked in a self-perpetuating cycle. As the temperature increases, so does the decomposition rate. As the decomposition rate increases, so does the temperature. This means that the matrix decomposes faster and faster as the temperature increases. The result is a self-feeding chain-reaction, or “runaway” fire, that destroys the entire system. The energy released can result in temperatures over 800 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing toxic and explosive gasses into the hull of a vessel.
SPBES’s “CellCool Liquid Cooling” system prevents this. Each cell is encased in its own cooling channel. The cell is uniformly cooled, controlling against thermal runaway (fire) and premature cell aging which will shorten the battery system lifespan. In multiple tests, the system has demonstrated its ability to completely control temperature and eliminate thermal runaway. In fact, there is a very impressive video on SPBES’s website called the “Nail Penetration Test.” This test has been widely used across the battery industry and battery-user community to assess lithium-ion battery safety. A nail is physically driven into the battery which begins the decomposition process mentioned above. During the nail penetration test, it is not uncommon to observe explosions within 200 milli-seconds of nail penetration. Watching the video of SPBES’s Nail Penetration Test is impressive for two reasons. First, the CellCool system works to prevent thermal runaway that could result in an explosion or fire. In fact, the adjacent cells did not reach more than 80 degrees Celsius, well within safe parameters. All gasses were safely released through the patented SPBES “E-Vent” ventilation system. The second reason is the calmness of the gentleman in the video hammering the nail (check out the video hyperlinked above). His trust in the reliability of the CellCool system is clearly demonstrated by the way he leisurely strolls away after pounding in the huge nail!
For ship designers and owner/operators, the modularity of the SPBES system is unparalleled.
The SPBES multiple battery units, or racks, are designed as modular, stackable, and configurable energy storage systems. The modules are connected in series and strings to achieve the total required system capacity. The system’s integrated enclosures may be installed in any location on a vessel or on land. Their “CellSwap” process takes advantage of their modular design allowing retrofitting onboard a vessel. SPBES CellSwap is simple; the cells in the core of the battery can be replaced when nearing the end of their lives. Other items, such as electronics and racking, are reused. There is no need for a costly refit of existing hardware, only the consumable parts such as the cells are replaced.
Alternatively, they may be packaged in standardized containers that are easily transported and deployed to any location and quickly brought online. The well-named “CanPower” is an independent containerized battery room fitted within standard-sized containers 20-53 feet in length. With CanPower, SPBES seeks to maximize the power density provided in a compact containerized solution for batteries, one of the most power-dense solutions on the market.
CanPower allows for installation opportunities in ships with insufficient room below the deck or for flexible increased capacity on an as-needed basis. A port-based crane can quickly swap out these topside CanPower modules with fully charged CanPowers, which are easily and quickly reconnected to the ship’s power system.
Nothing succeeds like success, so read on! SPBES provided the battery banks for the Elektra Hybrid Electric Ferry for Finferries of Finland. Completed in 2017, this double-ended ferry was the first of its kind to recharge its batteries at each port directly from the domestic power grid. The vessel is capable of carrying 90 cars and 375 people at a top speed of 11 knots, saving 60% in operating costs compared with similar-sized vessels that run solely on fossil fuels. It runs between Parainen and Nauvo in the Turku Archipelago, about one mile, 25 times a day. During ice-free conditions, the ferry travels unassisted by the diesel engines and recharges in minutes during the quick turn around at each port.
Two fully electric ferries that SPBES provided battery systems for were Norway’s Fjord1’s Gloppefjord and Eidsfjord. Completed in 2018, they operate on the Anda-Lote route in Nordfjord on the west coast of Norway, the eighth busiest ferry crossing in Norway.
Boasting a capacity of 120 cars and 349 people each, these ferries can recharge in nine minutes!
The largest electric ships in the world are powered by SPBES batteries. Completed in 2017 for client ForSea of Sweden, the Tycho Brahe and the Aurora operate on a 2.5-mile route between Helsingborg (Sweden) and Helsingör (Denmark). The massive ships carry 7.4 million passengers and 1.9 million vehicles annually. They also charge their batteries with shore power from renewable sources such as wind, water, and solar energy. This means that they are truly 100% zero-emissions vessels.
Ferries are not the only electric ships out there. The Elfrida, the world’s first electric fish farming ship, is in operation off the coast of central Norway. Built in 2016 for SalMar ASA, this workboat is used to transport feed and equipment, to repair or relocate fish cages, check anchorages, and make inspections. It requires around 50 minutes for its daily trip to the fish hatchery, which lies 7.4 miles off the coast. During the normal working day of about eight hours, the ship is powered by 100% battery power. Says Jørgen Holmen, in charge of the Elfrida project, “It’s fantastic to be crew onboard when you’re free of exhaust and motor noise. The workplace is better”.
SPBES also provided the battery systems for Norway’s “2017 Ship of the Year,” the NKT Victoria Hybrid Cable Layer. She has installed hundreds of miles of cables for offshore wind and interconnector projects in countries such as Denmark, Belgium, and the UK.
A Potent Partnership
The partnership between SPBES and PCTI will open many doors. The market for electric ferries alone is large and growing with the global trend towards sustainable power solutions. The global ferry industry is similar in size to the commercial airline industry, transporting approximately 2.1 billion passengers, 250 million vehicles, and 32 million trailers per year (and that does not include China). With the world demanding cleaner and quieter vehicles and energy production and the military opting for lithium ion power solutions more and more often, this partnership represents a great opportunity!