Suzhou Deploys Big Fleet of Battery-Powered Workboats

Image courtesy Torqueedo

By The Maritime Executive 04-03-2018 06:14:00

The city of Suzhou is deploying 177 small workboats to clean up its many miles of waterways, including Suzhou Creek, once the most polluted canal in China. In keeping with the fleet's environmental mission, Suzhou has opted for all-electric propulsion for the vessels - an unusually large order for a battery-powered fleet.

The order includes 18 30-foot launches, 22 23-foot catamarans and 137 16-to-20-foot wooden boats. All were designed by the China Ship Scientific Research Center and are fitted with special equipment for scooping up floating trash. All are powered by the Torqueedo series of electric outboard motors. 

“This successful large-scale deployment of our proven Cruise-series electric outboards is an important validation of Torqeedo’s clean, green technology,” said Christoph Ballin, CEO of Torqeedo. “China is taking environmental cleanup seriously and is at the forefront of adopting electric propulsion to reduce air and water pollution."

The long-running cleanup effort is more than a local matter. Suzhou Creek drains into the Huangpu River, which passes through Shanghai and ends near the mouth of the Yangtze, one of the top-10 drainages for ocean plastic. Scientists with the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research believe that 10 rivers in Asia and Africa are responsible for 95 percent of the world's ocean plastic pollution, including the Yangtze and four other rivers that flow through China. Overall, China is the world's largest source of ocean plastic.

China is also the world's largest emitter of CO2, and it is attempting to reduce its emissions through a broad range of policy initiatives. Thanks in part to government subsidies, China is by far the world's largest market for electric cars, and Chinese consumers bought over 600,000 personal electric vehicles last year. It is also the world's largest and fastest-growing market for renewable power, and even China's coal power plants have gotten in on the decarbonization trend: last November, CSSC's Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) launched what may be the world's first all-electric, battery-powered inland coal carrier for a regional electric utility.