The electric inland ship Alphenaar today sailed its maiden voyage, from Alphen aan den Rijn to Moerdijk in the Netherlands, for Dutch beer giant Heineken. The Alphenaar is the first electric inland shipping vessel in the Netherlands to launch – and it uses swappable batteries.

Its manufacturer, Rotterdam-based Zero Emission Services (ZES), explains how its swappable batteries – what it calls “exchangeable energy containers” – work:

Barges have a capacity varying from 500 to 1000 kW. With a ZESpack of 2000 kWh, a barge can sail for 2 to 4 hours; with 2 ZESpacks on board, it can travel a distance of 60 to 120 km. And there’s zero emission: the battery containers are charged with green energy, and the barge’s electrical powertrain ensures that no CO2, nitrogen or particulate matter is emitted. In addition, a ZES ship makes hardly any noise. 

The battery containers can also be used to stabilize the energy grid. ZES was founded by Wartsila, Engie, ING, and the Port of Rotterdam in July 2020.

Here’s a short video explainer:

The batteries work for new and existing inland vessels. Ships must be equipped with an electric propulsion line. Further:

This systemic change involves a total cost of €20 million for the first phase. Financial support is provided by ING bank, ENGIE, Wärtsilä, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, and the Dutch government. The government’s contribution is in the form of a grant from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works and a grant from the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland supporting the goal of making transport more sustainable.  

Here’s how the swappable batteries work: Put fully charged battery containers in, and when the ship arrives at the next terminal, take the used batteries out and replace them with fresh batteries in just 15 minutes. The charging station can recharge 2 ZESpacks at the same time in 2.5 hours.

Companies use a pay-per-use model – ship owners rent the battery container. ZES explains:

The financing concept can best be compared to a home energy bill: you pay a fixed charge for the connection, and an additional amount for the energy used.

Alphenaar is a beer-run ship for Heineken and its transport company CCT. Heineken is ZES’ first customer. The Alphenaar will sail daily from its brewery in Moerdijk to the port of Rotterdam.

ZES’ goal is to make all inland shipping in the Netherlands emissions free – and this country of canals has a lot of inland shipping. More than one-third of all goods and 80% of bulk transportation take place using inland waterways.

Here’s the Alphenaar in action today:

https://youtu.be/EN2BbBXu3nc

Read more: Meet the world’s first electric autonomous container ship

Photo: ZES

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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.