Working Paper

Repowering Chinese coastal ferries with battery-electric technology

This study analyzes the operational profiles of Chinese coastal ferries, their energy demand, and the implied battery system to evaluate the feasibility of repowering the fleet with battery-electric technology. It also identifies the regions and market segments where the transition to battery-electric ferries could be implemented first.

The analysis finds that current battery technologies can already satisfy most application scenarios for China’s coastal fleet. Most ferry legs in coastal China are shorter than 200 km, which is well within the battery range values of most ferries studied. Battery technology improvements would help electrify other more difficult segments of the existing ferry operations, namely larger ro-pax ferries deployed on longer routes. In addition, higher charging power during at-berth time helps improve the continuity of ferry operations using batteries, which is crucial for application scenarios where one route is exclusively served by one ship.

If policymakers wish to prioritize better electric ferry deployment, they may wish to focus first on electrifying smaller ships and shorter legs. Electrifying passenger ferries up to 55 m that sail on legs up to 100 km could replace 50% of fossil fuel use with electricity. For ro-pax ferries, the same fossil fuel replacement target can be attained by targeting ships up to 170 m in length traveling on legs up to 200 km. Electrifying all coastal ferry operations in the Pearl River Delta region could eliminate more than 30% of the fossil fuel that was used by the entire Chinese coastal ferry fleet in February 2019. Electrifying ferry operations in the Bo Sea region and the Hainan Strait, where substantial ferry activity occurs, could enable additional fossil fuel replacement of more than 40%.

Zero-emission vehicles
China Global