£5.4M Project Aims to Develop World’s Largest Network of Electric Workboats

£5.4M Project Aims to Develop World’s Largest Network of Electric Workboats
(Image credit: University of Plymouth)

The University of Plymouth has strengthened its position at the forefront of clean maritime innovation thanks to a new initiative that will deploy the world’s largest network of electric workboats.

The Zero Emission Network of Workboats (ZENOW) project has received £4.1 million in grant funding from the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) and Innovate UK as part of its Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure competition (ZEVI).

It brings the total funding secured by the project to £5.4 million and marks a step change in zero emission workboat operations, delivering commercial clean maritime technology.

ZENOW is a partnership of 15 UK marine businesses and organizations, that will ultimately deploy 20 electric workboats, powered by five new chargers.

The project will also code the boats ready for service and then, during and after a three-year period, analyze the data to provide evidence, advice and support for any of the circa 10,000 small harbors and marinas across the world getting ready to switch to electric.

Led by RS Electric Boats Ltd, the projects also bring together the University of Plymouth, Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Aqua superPower Ltd, Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, Yarmouth (IOW) Harbour Commissioners, Zero Marine Services Ltd, Cheetah Marine International Ltd, Urban Truant Power Ltd, Environment Agency, RAD Propulsion Ltd, Royal Yachting Association, WPNSA Ltd, Fowey Harbour Commissioners, and Salcombe Harbour Authority.

As part of the consortium, researchers from the University of Plymouth will be carrying out data analysis, building on their extensive work across the clean maritime sector.

This has previously included enabling the launching of the UK’s first electric passenger ferries, and then leading a project to develop the first UK charging network for electric maritime vessels.

The technology and partnerships we have helped to develop through our existing projects have laid the foundations for the wider expansion of the clean maritime sector. This project will further its potential to grow and deliver a fleet of boats that make a positive and lasting impact. It directly aligns with the Government’s Clean Maritime 2050 strategy and will benefit the maritime sector and society more broadly as well, said Sarah Fear, Project and Knowledge Exchange Manager.

The ZENOW project’s fleet of electric workboats will be delivered to 10 UK locations by March 2025, and the project includes a three-year demonstration phase with various partners operating the vessels in representative environments.

Sea trial data will form part of the partners’ detailed work to understand and develop how electric boats are used in practice, for example, by providing data on exact duty cycles and usage patterns.

This data will enable ZENOW to advise on adopting electric technology in a maritime environment and help shape other geographical electric networks.

The twenty boats will be connected virtually, with the project’s technology partners, RAD Propulsion and Aqua SuperPower, delivering fleet-wide monitoring systems to collect operational and performance data.

Jon Partridge, CEO of RS Electric Boats, said: “This data will give us the know-how to understand how people operate the vessels. Electric boats are wanted all round the world, and ZENOW will be able to offer a series of like for like cases, giving people the confidence that electric can work in their environments. The network covers a broad sector of commercial work and activities. It also has very good representation across the commercial marine sector, which means that not only will we be protecting the marine environment, we’ll also be creating blueprints for others in the sector.”


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