RS Electric Boats has announced that its ZENOW (Zero Emission Network of Workboats) project has received £4.1 million in grant funding from the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) and Innovate UK, as part of its Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure competition (ZEVI). This funding now brings the total project funding to £5.4 million and effectively marks a step change in zero emission workboat operations, delivering commercial clean maritime technology.
ZENOW is a partnership of 15 UK marine businesses and organisations, led by RS Electric Boats. The project will deploy the world’s largest network of electric workboats (20 electric workboats, powered by five new Aqua Superpower chargers), code them ready for service and (during a three-year period), analyse the data to provide evidence, advice and support for any of the circa 10,000 small harbours and marinas across the world getting ready to switch to electric.
The electric workboats, which include 13 Pulse 63s, five 7.9m and two 8.9m Cheetah Marine electric workboats powered by RAD Propulsion’s RAD 40 drives and RAD 120 electric drives, will be delivered to 10 UK locations by 1 March 2025.
The project includes a three-year demonstration phase with various partners operating the vessels in representative environments. Sea trial data will form part of the partners’ detailed work to understand and develop how electric boats are used in practice, for example, by providing data on exact duty cycles and usage patterns. This data will enable ZENOW to advise on adopting electric technology in a maritime environment and help shape other geographical electric networks.
“This data will give us, and RAD Propulsion, the know-how to understand how people operate the vessels,” says Jon Partridge, CEO of RS Marine Group. “Electric boats are wanted all round the world, and ZENOW will be able to offer a series of like for like cases, giving people the confidence that electric can work in their environments.
“The network covers a broad sector of commercial work and activities. It’s a who’s who of leading businesses and operators, including harbours, the RYA (coaching), the Environment Agency and many more. The project has very good representation across the commercial marine sector, which means that not only will we be protecting the marine environment, we’ll also be creating blueprints for others in the sector. All harbours, marinas and ports globally will need to transition. They’ll be able to use our know-how.”
The 20 boats will be connected virtually, with the project’s technology partners, RAD Propulsion and Aqua SuperPower, delivering fleet-wide monitoring systems to collect operational and performance data. Data analytics will also be published by the University of Plymouth and used to enable partners to enhance their environmental performance, optimise operations, reduce costs and grow their businesses.
“This project will empower multiple UK workboat users to start their transition to zero emission operations,” says Jon Partridge. “It will enhance and support the market position of UK companies that provide electric boats and their supporting technologies while further strengthening Aqua SuperPower as the leading charging network in the maritime industry. ZENOW will aid the deployment of RAD Propulsion’s scalable family of electric drives and connected digital fleet technology. Put bluntly, it’s a game-changer for workboat users.”
“RAD Propulsion is delighted to be working with RS Electric Boats as one of the winning ZEVI funding projects,” says Dan Hook, CEO RAD Propulsion. “This kind of funding is vital in helping us to accelerate the adoption of zero emission vessels across the UK. It means we can bring together 20 commercial workboats with partners ranging from harbour masters, universities and government agencies.”
Falmouth Harbour already has four vessels tasked with patrols, supporting novel technologies and scientific work and mooring checks. It’ll receive an RS Electric Pulse as part of the project and says that participating will help to demonstrate and build confidence in new clean technology while reducing other environmental impacts such as noise and pollution. More than that, the charging solution can be used by a plethora of harbour users such as water taxis, yacht tenders and others.
“We are incredibly excited in Falmouth Harbour by this announcement,” says Miles Carden, CEO Falmouth Harbour. “We are working really hard to decarbonise our harbour operations. Reducing our scope one emissions is key to this. We feel that electric propulsion will have a really important role to play in decarbonising smaller harbour vessels utilising lessons learned from the growing EV market. However, there are lots of questions that need to be answered relating to how the vessels will perform in use day to day.
The funding from Innovate UK is crucial to accelerate the deployment of these new, clean and green technologies into daily use. The 20 vessels designed and built as a result of this project will start to answer some important operational questions.”
Workboat operators involved in ZENOW include:
- The Environment Agency for river enforcement tasks on the Thames and in East Anglia
- A group of Harbour Commissioners including Salcombe, Falmouth and Fowey for harbour management operations
- Urban Truant Power for a foot passenger ferry service to the Isle of Wight
- Zero Marine Services for construction support and safety standby work, predominantly on the Thames
- Royal Yachting Association (RYA), the UK’s national power boat and sailing body
- Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy for coaching of all levels (from grassroots to Olympic), event management and safety boat operations.
Urban Truant Power sees being part of ZENOW as a long-term way to develop an electric vessel franchise model. It’ll be developing a booking app and digital management tool for electric water-taxi and ferry operations in the meantime.
Other partners include the University of Plymouth, Lloyd’s Register, Aqua SuperPower, Cheetah Marine International and RAD Propulsion.
“The International maritime industry is moving ever faster towards electrification and this project will help ensure that the UK is at the forefront,” adds Jon Partridge. “This venture represents more than just a project for us at RS Electric Boats. It signifies a commitment, a leap towards a greener maritime future. Working together with our partners, we’re paving the way for a zero-emission revolution in the workboat sector.”
In July 2023, RS Electric Boats announced its new iteration of the Pulse 63, which features a RAD40 (electric propulsion system) and increased battery capacity from 46kWh to 63kWh. The new set-up means the Pulse 63 enjoys extreme manoeuvrability. This is because the RAD40 head unit stays still and only the bottom of its leg swivels. As a result, the propeller can turn 90 degrees in each direction, offering a fantastic 180 degrees – allowing the Pulse to spin in its own length.
ZENOW is part of the Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure competition (ZEVI), which was announced in February 2023, funded by UK Government and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. As part of ZEVI, the Department for Transport allocated over £80m to 10 flagship projects supported by 52 organisations from across the UK to deliver real world demonstration R&D projects in clean maritime solutions. Projects will take place in multiple locations from the Orkney Isles to the southwest of England.
ZEVI is part of the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emission’s (UK SHORE), focused on clean maritime technologies that can be scaled rapidly to decarbonise the UK’s domestic maritime sector. In March 2022, the department announced the biggest government investment ever in the UK’s commercial maritime sector, allocating £206m to UK SHORE, a new division within the Department for Transport focused on decarbonising the maritime sector. UK SHORE is delivering a suite of interventions throughout 2022-2025 aimed at accelerating the design, manufacture and operation of UK-made clean maritime technologies and unlocking an industry-led transition to Net Zero.