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Scorpio Invests in Battery Startup to Accelerate Maritime Applications

battery application of maritime propulsion
BritishVolt plans to open is first manufacturing facility in the UK by 2024 (BritishVolt)

Published May 18, 2022 4:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

In what is being called a significant move forward for the development of batteries for applications in ship propulsion, Monaco’s Scorpio Group, parent to the tanker company and an offshore wind turbine installation company, is making a significant investment in BritishVolt, a UK startup battery cell technology company. The investment, which is Scorpio’s second entry into the battery market is believed to be in the millions of British pounds according to Reuters and is designed to further accelerate green propulsion and potential power storage solutions for maritime applications.

Batteries are a quickly emerging segment for the maritime propulsion industry. Currently, batteries are only big enough to provide limited power applications but they have been explored for use in a broad range of sectors from inland shipping to ships operating in environmentally sensitive areas and short periods to permit vessels to enter and depart ports without emissions. In the Netherlands, a project is developing power packs for inland vessels operating from the Port of Rotterdam using batteries that would be recharged and swapped at power points along the route. China recently launched what it is calling the world’s largest electric cruise ship operated in the Three Gorges area while both Hurtigruten and Havila have installed large batteries on their cruise ships. Next month, Havila is set to make history when its vessel sails into an environmentally sensitive Norwegian fjord using just its batteries. 

While batteries, so far, have been seen as most promising for smaller ships, the new partnership looks to expand the applications. The Financial Times quotes Elon Musk as saying ships would be the easiest mode of transport to electrify after cars.

Through the partnership, Britishvolt and Scorpio will seek to develop solutions to accelerate the pace of battery innovation for the maritime industry. Citing the need for green propulsion power, the companies said they see the opportunity for the shipping industry to embrace battery power. The Financial Times reports that Scorpio has also invested in a Norwegian battery cell company Freyr as it seeks to advance the applications both for its tankers and its offshore installation vessels. Scorpio’s offshore company Eneti currently has two wind turbine installation vessels on order from South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering.

“The investment by Scorpio is a clear endorsement of Britishvolt’s vision for 2050, whereby not only electric vehicles adopt our low carbon, sustainable battery cell capacity but also maritime and aviation,” said Kasra Pezeshki, chief investment officer for Britishvolt. “These more polluting, heavy duty, modes of transport need to look at best solutions for lowering emissions. Britishvolt batteries can play an integral part in that.”

BritishVolt has been moving quickly in 2022 to develop its operations. At the beginning of the year, the company announced that it had received investments including a grant valued at approximately $125 million from the British government and that they were moving forward with plans for their first manufacturing plant. The company looks to develop a commercialized battery ecosystem launching its first full-scale electric-vehicle Gigaplant by 2024 able to produce over 30,000 electric vehicle battery packs each year. BritishVolt signed a nickel supply agreement with Indonesia and is working on developing batteries for car companies Aston Martin and Lotus.

“Scorpio is delighted to have the opportunity to invest in the exciting next phase of growth for Britishvolt,” said Filippo Lauro, vice president at Scorpio Group. “The battery pioneer’s leadership position and access to the UK’s cutting-edge scientific community ensure that we will be able to work together to further accelerate green-propulsion and potentially power storage solutions for maritime.”