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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 

Japanese company e5 Lab has begun development of its Roboship, a standard model for an electrically powered vessel as well as an integrated system called the 'Roboship Box', which brings together telecommunications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and software.

Through this initiative, e5 Lab is working to address critical issues facing Japan’s ocean shipping and maritime industries, including a shortage of seafarers, environmental concerns, safety, and the sustainable growth of the shipbuilding/ship machinery sectors. With strategic partners in Japan and overseas, the development project team targets the commercialisation of electric-powered merchant vessels that adopt world-class propulsion systems at competitive cost.

The team is developing two types of electric vessels under Roboship v1.0, of 499gt and 749gt respectively. They will be able to achieve the same speed and sailing range as vessels currently in service, while achieving zero-emission operation in port, due to the large-capacity storage batteries in combination with a diesel-powered generator. These vessels are expected to achieve higher energy efficiency than other vessels in service, through the use of efficient electric devices such as DC grids, PM motors, and AI technology.

Roboship v1.0 can significantly reduce not only the workload of seafarers, but also lower the risk of mechanical problems and decrease maintenance costs, because the motors are powered only by electricity. The team’s current target is to keep construction costs less than 5% above the cost of comparable existing vessels. The first Roboship v1.0 vessel is slated for delivery within 2022.

e5 Lab and its project partners will promote the Roboship and accelerate maritime digital transformation by offering the Roboship Box as well as the EV powertrain, which is a key technology of the Roboship, to all interested shipyards and shipowners. The Roboship Box is the foundation that connects the vessel and shore and enables shore-side support using digital technology. According to the company, Roboship and Roboship Box are intended to "realise competitive and value-added vessels from various aspects such as environmental friendliness, economy, quality, and performance, with the goal achieving a transition to electric vessels and digitalisation in the ocean shipping and maritime industries."


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