Battery powered zero emissions barges

Backwater Cruising barge The 38m long Backwater Cruising barges will have a 300kWh battery bank

A fleet of zero emissions 100t barges that operate solely on battery power are being built for canal trips in France.

UK company Backwater Cruising is currently constructing the first of 21 38m long vessels barges that will have a 300kWh battery bank powered by purpose-built canalside charging points to achieve zero carbon operation.

Isle of Wight-based Hybrid Marine will provide hybrid systems for the vessels, which Graeme Hawksley, founder and managing director, explained can 'operate in serial hybrid mode, parallel hybrid mode and for five hours propulsion under battery alone along with air-conditioning'.

The hybrid system comprises twin Beta 105 parallel hybrid engines and a 49kVA generator. If an overnight charging point is not available then the generator will be employed for overnight charging of the battery bank. This aims to ensure continuous operation while still using zero carbon propulsion wherever possible.

"The long term plan is to provide enough canal side charging points to operate on battery power alone, thus providing zero carbon operation," added Graeme. "For longer passages, in open waters, the diesel engines can be employed."

Hybrid Marine will deliver and commission the hybrid system over the next few months, while the vessel hulls are being constructed in Belgium.

Construction of the next two vessels is due to start in April 2018.

The barges will go out to charter to holiday operators such as SAGA, which use them to run tourist day trips in central France.

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