October 26th, 2022

eDrive LAB adopts MOVENS technology to accelerate the transition to a sustainable Blue Economy

eDriveLAB is an Italian company pioneering a disruptive project in the field of sustainable blue-mobility chose MOVENS technology for real-time state-of-health (SOH) monitoring of batteries in electric boat engine and power train.

Toward a Global Sustainable Blue Economy

Mobility is the lifeblood of economic development and the social well-being of communities, as well as a crucial resource for achieving the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

As outlined in the European Commission's various reports, about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions on European territory come from the transport sector, which is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels (94 percent). Road transport is responsible for nearly 73 percent of total CO2 emissions, followed by air and sea transport with a share of about 13 percent each and rail transport for 0.5 percent.

The goal of carbon neutrality, so-called “zero emissions” by 2050, has prompted the European Union to take action to reduce the impact of all transport sectors: road, sea, and air. As for the rail sector, which is already largely electrified, actions are limited to routes served by diesel-powered trains.

The road to a truly sustainable energy future is still a long one, especially within the nautical sector where-unlike the automotive sector-the electrification of shipping and ports has a more recent history in terms of research, development, and innovation. When we talk about sustainability, we tend to refer to the Green Economy as a driver of change, as opposed to the Blue Economy of the not-quite-quite-ago past.

A sustainable Blue Economy is equally essential to achieving the goals of the European Green Deal. In this sense, the European Commission recently coined an effective expression - “No Green without Blue” - precisely to promote the emergence of a new approach for a sustainable blue economy with reference to the protection of the marine and coastal environment. This economy operates in the largest ecosystem on the planet: the oceans account for about 97 percent of all water on the earth's surface and include 80 percent of all life forms. The sea is a physical dimension that surrounds and sustains us, producing 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and providing food and sustenance for billions of people, but it is also a metaphysical dimension as it fosters a culture of the sea that has underpinned social relationships and trade since the dawn of humanity. 

Riding the Innovation Wave

In the framework of the maritime transport system electrification, and to give due emphasis to relevant initiatives in a rapidly evolving application field, we had a fruitful conversation with one of the key players in this sector, Davide Lusignani, CEO of eDriveLAB, an Italian excellence and one of the main drivers of the transition to a sustainable Blue Economy. 

eDriveLAB is a spin-off of the University of Parma specializing in automotive powertrain electrification technologies. The company is now one of the most innovative startups in the national electric mobility scene; in fact, it counts a large project portfolio and prestigious clients, such as Ferrari.

The constant commitment to research and development, combined with the spirit of innovation, has led eDriveLAB to pioneer a disruptive project in the field of sustainable maritime mobility.

“After having worked for many years in the field of land transportation and designed hardware and software to electrify any type of vehicle, from cars to industrial machinery to tractors, motorcycles, and racing vehicles,” Lusignani says, “we decided to transfer the know-how we had gained to the nautical sector. The turning point was three years ago, when we participated in the Genoa International Boat Show. In that setting, we met William Gobbo, CEO of Sealance Ltd., a benefit company that designed and built the first electric, high-speed, high-efficiency hydro-jet outboard marine engine called DeepSpeed.” 

Sealance decided to assign an initial order to eDriveLab, which at the time was worth far more than the entire annual turnover of the university spin-off, and within a short time that order turned into an acquisition by Sealance.

Being under Sealance's wing, claims Lusignani, has allowed us rapid growth (as of today we are more than 20 resources, including employees, collaborators and researchers) and, above all, the realization of what has always been our ambition, which is to do product development. This means that we make all the technology necessary for the operation of the DeepSpeed nautical electric hydrojet; more exactly, we develop all the part related to the powertrain, batteries, control systems.

The current size of the global market for electrified boats (estimated about $6.45 billion in 2019-with an average annual growth rate of 11.2 percent from 2020 to 2027) confirms the great growth potential of eDrive LAB. In fact, the maritime sector is at an early stage as propulsion electrification technologies have only landed in this sector in recent years, especially in recreational boating.

Fire Risk Reduction Technology for Next Generation Batteries

In this rapidly evolving scenario, eDrive LAB has designed and built a battery that stands as a turning point in the world of electric powertrains. The technical data of the work-aside from being satisfactory in terms of energy density comparable to that offered by the best EVs on the market today-are very promising in terms of considerably reducing the risk of fire on board a boat.

We have developed a battery that is inherently designed, Lusignani points out, not to catch fire, even in the most severe cases, such as one in which a cell fails critically. Without going into the purely technical details of this technological innovation, suffice it to say that the lithium cells are immersed inside a nonconductive liquid that can significantly reduce the risk of fire following damage. This solution, in addition to being an ideal way of cooling the cells, ensures that - should a single cell be damaged and catch fire - the event would not be able to spread and expand, therefore, to adjacent cells.

This product, Lusignani continues, was initially conceived from a specific need of Sealance to have a battery that was 'fireproof' and that was 'the safest ever designed'-so it could be installed on passenger ferries and mega yachts. Today, this product results to be very popular in the nautical world so much so that it is becoming another asset of eDrive LAB. 

The first units of this innovative battery will be available for large-scale supply from early 2023 and, interestingly, may also find application well beyond the maritime sector, such as, for example, in the truck (truck), agricolture (tractor), off-road (construction equipment), stationary storage (domestic/industrial storage connected to renewable sources) markets. As part of the innovation ecosystem for digitalization and sustainability in the maritime industry, eDrive LAB collaborates with a growing number of technology partners that contribute to the development of value-added solutions and services for end customers.  Among the innovative technology companies in the Smart Mobility & Energy sector, eDrive LAB has chosen to collaborate with Henshin Group - a British software company operating in the mobility and energy sectors - which has developed MOVENS, an IoT [ed., Internet of Things] platform designed according to global standards as a technology infrastructure for the implementation of Smart City initiatives.

“With Henshin we met”, says Lusignani, “a remarkably good interlocutor. Expertise and high professionalism are the strengths of our partnership. Dynamic monitoring systems for remote infrastructure control and management [ed, Remote Infrastructure Management Services] represent the new frontier of Industry 4.0.  Therefore, the application of Cloud technology to the maritime industry is a great achievement for us. MOVENS technology enables all data from a boat to be collected and transmitted in real time to the Cloud. This means having at our disposal several possibilities that would otherwise be very difficult to implement such as, for example, the whole remote analysis part of the individual vessel or a fleet. Such innovation greatly facilitates research and development activities, enables effective preventive and predictive diagnostics, provides a multi-channel alert and notification system in case of abnormal battery cell voltage, as well as reliable remote customer support, including the ability to perform many interventions of different types and incidence. With this in mind, we have recently developed an app through which the boat can keep an eye on the state of battery charge, but also interact with the boat. Today, just to make a concrete reference, thanks to the integration of each individual vessel to MOVENS' IoT platform, it is possible to update in OTA mode the battery management software [ed. note, the so-called BMS] of a vehicle moored in Australia.”

Three words, according to Lusignani, define and nurture the company spirit: innovation, electrification and team:

“eDrive LAB would never have achieved today's flattering milestones if it had not been able to rely on a team not of gold but of “platinum”: a motivated team of highly interdisciplinary engineers, researchers, PhDs, and doctoral students, where the software engineer speaks the same language as the electronic, mechanical and even management engineer. Our real strength is that they all work in unison united by the same vision: to develop cutting-edge technologies to facilitate the ecological transition in the Green and Blue Economy sectors.”

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