Hybrid and electric vehicles are becoming so commonplace that few people see them as a novelty anymore. With the success of battery technology on electric vehicles (EVs), the world is taking a big step toward the reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Now science and industry are exploring the possibility of using EV technology on other modes of transportation.
The marine industry is very interested in EV technology. As one of the top consumers of carbon-based fuels, the marine industry is realizing that they must develop alternate means of propulsion that does not emit tons of carbon into the atmosphere. And they are borrowing a page from the auto industry’s playbook which includes hybrid propulsion and reliance on battery-power when the vessels need to make only small changes in their position.
Hybrid and full electric vessels are powered by the battery energy storage systems (BESS). In almost all cases, a BESS consists of lithium-ion batteries called “cells.” A BESS can contain dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of cells to store energy. The cells are grouped together in modules, the modules are typically held in racks, and in larger applications, the racks are stored in shipping-container-type structures located within the vessel. Depending on the size of the vessel, one could see a few cells or modules powering small recreational boats; or multiple BESS containers powering massive cargo or tanker ships.
Lithium-ion BESS provide a high energy density in a small, lightweight package. Furthermore, they are low maintenance and reliable. While lithium-ion BESS have an overall good track record for safety, with more and more being pressed into service, especially on EVs, we are also starting to experience some of their downsides in the form of vigorously burning fires.
When a BESS experiences a failure and a thermal runaway ensues, it produces a dramatic fire that can be difficult to contain and extinguish. It only takes a short internet search to find scores of videos illustrating the hazard of a BESS as it undergoes a thermal runaway. Here is an example of an EV bus spontaneously bursting into flames during the charging process.
While BESS failure is bad no matter where it occurs, it is positively catastrophic on a vessel at sea. A fire such as the one in the video can result in the complete loss of a vessel while placing passengers and crewmembers’ lives in peril. Ask any mariner and they will tell you that their number one fear is a fire onboard while they are underway. There is no fire department to call, and help can be hours away if it shows up at all.
The good news for mariners is there is a choice available which can protect them and their vessel from the hazard of a BESS fire. Stat-X® systems have undergone extensive testing and are proven effective at minimizing the risk of single- and double-cell lithium-ion battery thermal runaway propagation. Mariners should also take additional comfort in the fact that Stat-X is United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved.
Further good news is that Stat-X systems are simple to install, do not require complicated piping and testing, and they are virtually maintenance-free. In addition to protecting BESS, Stat-X is also the ideal choice for protecting engine rooms and other machinery spaces. This allows vessel operators to standardize throughout the vessel on Stat-X systems.
Last—but not least—Stat-X is totally safe and can be discharged in normally occupied areas. The agent has zero global-warming and ozone-depletion properties, does not displace oxygen, and has zero atmospheric life. These details are important because there are many vessel operators that are facing costly fire suppression system replacement scenarios right now due to environmental regulation and/or safety problems with their HFC or PFAS based systems.
As the world moves toward ambitious climate-change targets, it is comforting to know that fire suppression technology is keeping pace with the new developments. With Stat-X protecting onboard BESS, mariners can rest assured they are well protected while at sea.