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MOL’s VC Invests in Developer of Energy-Dense Marine Batteries Fleetzero

battery powered containership
Fleetzero seek to develop medium- and long-range battery-powered vessels (Fleetzero)

Published Mar 28, 2024 10:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

Corporate venture fund MOL PLUS, the investment arm of Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is making its latest investment in marine energy company Fleetzero, an early-stage U.S.-based technology company focusing on long-range electric cargo shipping. MOL PLUS is participating in a fund-raising round for the startup technology company that was launched in 2021 by two marine engineers, Steven Henderson and Mike Carter, to develop what they are calling breakthrough battery technology that will produce the world’s most energy-dense battery pack. 

Fleetzero is working to develop marine battery systems that offer higher density, low cost, and a high level of safety. MOL reports that through its investment in the company, it will work to promote the installation of battery systems on MOL Group ships and to accelerate the implementation of the technology. The company says it will work with Fleetzero to engage maritime stakeholders, especially in Asia, and to support the company’s entry into the Japanese market.

To date, MOL explains, issues of profitability and safety have limited the size and range of electric vessels. They believe that Fleetzero’s technology will make it possible to develop medium and large-size electric vessels with sufficient range for medium to long-range deployment.

 

Fleetzero developed its first energy-dense battery pack Leviathan for demonstration on its anchor handler vessel

 

Currently, most of the battery applications have been limited to vessels such as ferries or inland which travel relatively short distances and have frequent opportunities to recharge. Both in Europe and China, companies are also developing battery applications for container systems that can be easily swapped out so that the vessels can continue to operate with fresh batteries while the other battery pack is recharged on land. China recently launched a battery-powered inland containership.

The size of the current batteries limits the practicality of their application on ships. Several vessels use small battery packs for supplemental power, or loading sharing, to improve overall performance. The operators explain the size of the batteries currently available precludes fully-electric applications. Several cruise ships, including Hurtigruten and Havila, installed systems that provide fully-electric operations for limited periods of time. In June 2022, Havila Castor demonstrated its battery system sailing for approximately three hours in Norway’s Geirangerfjord. 

 

2007-built anchor handler was renamed Pacific Joule and outfitted as a demonstration vessel in 2023

 

Fleetzero with its higher energy density battery pack looks to overcome these challenges. Last year they retrofitted a demonstration application on a 2007-built anchor handling tug. Renamed the Pacific Joule, the vessel is using the company’s Leviathan battery technology. The ship is a 2,700 dwt vessel with an overall length of 266 feet (81 meters).

MOL PLUS was launched in 2021 to make a broad range of investments, mainly in early and middle-stage startup companies that can reform ocean shipping business models and create new businesses from mid-to-long-term viewpoints. MOL reported the investments would be centered on domains that can reform business models in ocean transport and logistics, and other domains relating to the MOL Group's future, such as offshore, environment, ferries, and cruise ships businesses. The initial investment ceiling was reported at approximately $26.5 million.

In addition to the battery technology, MOL PLUS recently invested in emission flow technology. Other investments have included technology for offshore power grids and wave power generation.