Aqua superPower fast charging a fully electric boat

Plymouth is set to become the first city in the UK to install a network of shore-side charging facilities for its expanding fleet of electric maritime vessels.

Over the past year, the city has become home to the UK’s first marine electric passenger ferry and an electric water taxi that will operate 364 days a year.

However, access to infrastructure is currently a barrier to ensuring further growth in this emerging sector can happen in a coordinated and sustainable way.

With that in mind, a consortium of city partners is joining forces to create Plymouth’s Marine e-Charging Living Lab (MeLL), which will provide the pivotal infrastructure required to accelerate innovation and growth.

The project has received more than £570,000 funding as part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

It will develop a network of charging facilities around Plymouth Sound, offering multiple, flexible sites and responding to the Maritime 2050 route map for maritime net zero.

The project is being led by the University of Plymouth in partnership with Plymouth City Council, Princess Yachts Limited and Aqua SuperPower.

Between now and March 2022, it will identify suitable locations for charging facilities that can be easily linked to the National Grid while meeting both consumer and commercial demand. It will also develop and deploy an array of sensor technologies that can assess the environmental and operational impacts of e-charging.

The scheme furthers Plymouth’s reputation as a centre of excellence in clean maritime innovation, and will be designed to complement existing and emerging initiatives including Oceansgate, Smart Sound Plymouth, the Plymouth Freeport and the UK’s first National Marine Park.

Aerial view of Plymouth Sound
Copper - Mount Batten Ferry

Professor Will Blake, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute at the University of Plymouth, said:

“This is an exciting project that has the real potential to showcase Plymouth as a trail blazer in clean maritime innovation. It builds on our existing partnerships and shows that there is a concerted effort to make positive and lasting changes that will benefit both our city and the environment as a whole. The University has a long track record of using its world-leading sustainability research and partnerships to both highlight challenges and develop new ways of working. This project, and the opportunities it brings, is the perfect way to continue expanding that work.”

Councillor Jonathan Drean, Cabinet Member for Transport at Plymouth City Council, said:

“This is a big deal – not just for the Council and its partners – but for our sizable maritime community from weekend anglers to the fishing crews, who I hope will be looking at this with real interest. We need to plan for a future that is less reliant on fossil fuels and our marine sector can play a key role in ensuring a greener future. This exciting project fits in so well with so many of our city aspirations to tackle climate change through our Climate Emergency Action Plan but to also encourage more people to enjoy the waters around Plymouth, through our National Marine Park status. It’s also putting Plymouth’s name out there as a city that’s innovative, that’s prepared to support and invest in the right infrastructure that could lead to a significant step towards becoming more sustainable. If we are asking businesses, organisations and individuals involved in our marine economy to go greener, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do this. That’s what this project is about.”

Kiran Haslam, Chief Marketing Officer and Board Member for Sustainability, Princess Yachts, said:

“Sustainability is a major focus at Princess and we have given ourselves some tough targets to meet in terms of reducing our carbon emissions – including a reduction in manufacturing CO2 emissions by over 20 per cent by 2023. We have become the conservation custodians of marine environments such as Eddystone Reef, and are very much focused on waste reduction with an ongoing shift towards clean energy across all our manufacturing sites. So it is with great pleasure that we are now also able to contribute in a meaningful way to Plymouth’s Marine e-Charging Living Lab (MeLL). Working with the innovative team at the University of Plymouth and supported by Plymouth City Council, we are proud to be a part of the team which will help develop the pivotal infrastructure required to provide a suitable network of marine charging facilities in the Plymouth area, continuing to build upon the city’s great work in clean maritime innovation.”

Alex Bamberg, CEO of AQUA superPower said:

“We are privileged to work with the University of Plymouth, Plymouth City Council and a premiere yacht manufacturer like Princess Yachts. In deploying our world first dedicated marine fast charge network as part of the project, we are creating the landscape towards decarbonization of the marine environment. Our team has an extensive background in developing and establishing DC charge network infrastructure and as a UK company, we very much look forward to bringing our knowledge and technology to the MeLL project. This is the start of a network originating from Plymouth to build a marine e-mobility corridor and establishing a centre of excellence in marine charging. Aqua are the first fast charge network company to be awarded a grant under the Innovate UK Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and we very much look forward to contributing to the success of this important project with our partners.”

The winners of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition were announced in Greenwich, the heart of British maritime, on the state-of-the-art Royal Navy ship HMS Albion.

Transport Secretary outlined how this is the latest in a string of government initiatives aimed at cutting emissions in the sector as part of London International Shipping Week – including joining other nations in supporting a world-leading absolute zero target for international shipping emissions by 2050.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“As a proud island nation built on our maritime prowess, it is only right that we lead by example when it comes to decarbonising the sector and building back greener.  The projects announced today showcase the best of British innovation, revolutionising existing technology and infrastructure to slash emissions, create jobs and get us another step closer to our decarbonisation targets.”

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer for Innovate UK, added:

“As the UK prepares to host COP26 in the maritime city of Glasgow, it is great that we can announce funding for some fantastic projects in the maritime sector that will help the UK meet its net zero goals. From the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition we saw a very high level of demand, and we have seen the very best of British ideas from all over the country. It is clear that not only does the UK have a great maritime history, but also a bright and greener future too.”

Clean maritime research and innovation

The University of Plymouth is among the UK’s leading proponents of clean maritime research and innovation.

It is conducting research in fields as varied as maritime cyber and marine autonomy, advanced engineering and the arts, biological and environmental science and Big Data.

Through engagement with business and the wider scientific community, it is pioneering new ways of transforming this research into practical solutions to challenges being faced across the marine and maritime sectors.

It is also harnessing the capability of new and existing technology within this sphere, including looking into the development and application of autonomous marine systems to advance our understanding of the ocean.

CETUS survey work with HydroSurv
The University is continuing to forge new areas of clean maritime research and drive debate around how they can be applied effectively and collaboratively