DVIDS – News – NPS Students Explore Potential Profitability of Battery-Powered Warships


When Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) students in Financial Management, Lt. Cmdr. Evan Bloxham and the lieutenants. Christopher Masters and Ashraful Haque, have launched their joint research project on the financial feasibility of powering warships using lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. They were certainly skeptical about obtaining favorable results for this form of electrification.

“We found a lot of research and were very interested in the advances in lithium-ion batteries, as well as public and private sector investment,” says Masters. “We were both quite skeptical about the application and the real savings that lithium-ion batteries can bring. And so we just wanted to look into it and see if, on a long-term scale or a large project, there does it have potential for cost savings?”

The student team capstone project was funded in part by a Naval Research Program (NRP) grant obtained in October 2021 to explore net zero pathways for the operational navy. At the end of the project, they presented their work in a virtual briefing, which was attended by many NPS experts as well as outside interests, including the Navy’s senior climate adviser. Three additional projects will be informed through the grant in the 2022 academic year.

“There has been a lot of interest in Pathways to Net Zero Emissions due to the push within DOD and other federal agencies to achieve net zero by 2050,” says faculty associate Kristen Fletcher. University Energy Group (EAG) Research Center at NPS. Fletcher was one of the student advisors, along with Dr. Simona Tick, an NPS professor of labor and economics in the Department of Defense Management.

Students conducted a cost-benefit analysis on converting a gasoline-powered warship to be powered using a Li-ion battery system, ultimately developing a working financial model that can be used to calculate the carbon emissions of the service fleet also using a gas turbine. as a battery alternative over a period of 15 years.

The costs they looked at included the energy requirements of the warship to operate for a year, the cost of the battery and the conversion process, the cost of fuel before conversion, the social cost of emissions, and the difference in fuel costs. maintenance between gas and lithium-ion powered vessels. Emissions are relatively straightforward for a gasoline-powered warship, but they also calculated the emissions associated with US household energy use, which is not solely from renewables.

They used conversion rates from the US Energy Information Administration to determine the energy consumption of gasoline-powered ships compared to those powered by Li-ion batteries. The team also looked at three different oil price scenarios based on market volatility.

According to the methodology employed by the student team, the results demonstrated significant labor savings. Specifically, they discovered that Li-ion batteries required no mechanics and almost half as many electricians. This alone could save the Navy more than $435 million a fully realized year.

Recognizing that the battery systems would need to be replaced after the 8th year of operation, the team also considered the potential savings through the resale of recyclable materials. And they estimated that the cost of replacing the batteries was about half the cost of initially converting a gas turbine to electric power.

The team estimates that the Navy would spend between $138 million and $256 million to run a gasoline-powered warship on a Li-ion battery. Juxtaposed with the estimated potential savings of between $38 million and $156 million per year, by making the switch and the team says their results speak volumes.

“Even in the most restrictive scenario, which is the low oil price scenario, still 62 percent of the time it came out that [the Li-ion switch] was preferred, which suggests to us that it presents significant cost savings to the government, at least from a strictly financial standpoint,” Masters said during the team’s final briefing.

Most of the savings come from reducing power requirements, the team reported, but they also looked at other gasoline-powered turbine options that could increase a warship’s cost savings or fuel efficiency without switch wholesale to electrification.

This is a potential area of ​​research, as is the maintainability, reliability and survivability of Li-ion batteries, the students said. There are also possible hybrid energy solutions and marine applications of Li-ion batteries in coastal waters and in small craft as additional areas of research.

The three students have graduated and are now doing or preparing for assignments. Masters is taking an advanced submarine officer course in preparation for returning to sea, Haque is working on the Marine Corps medical care budget, and Bloxham has started in the Presidential Helo Program (PMA 274) as deputy chief financial officer.

The team says their grassroots experience has definitely changed their perspective on the value of finding renewable energy solutions.

“I hope to have the opportunity to influence DOD decision makers to invest more in green energy,” says Haque. “Every chance I get, I’ll try to defend that.”

Date taken: 15.04.2022
Date posted: 15.04.2022 12:18
Story ID: 418598

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