Editor, The Times:
Some news from Deutsche Welle – Living Planet. The Dutch are electrifying their canal barges. They’ve started with five new barges with electric motors then will refit all of their barges with electric motors. It is said that the French and Germans, Belgians and so on are on the same path.
What has made all this possible is the great advance in battery technology. Lithium batteries are the answer to the long sought quest to make electrical power practical for such applications as barge propulsion.
At the turn of the 19th Century the French were experimenting with electric-powered vessels of a different type. However, given the primitive state of electrical engineering at the time (water and electricity don’t mix all that well) it was not all that successful.
As the spokesman I was listening to pointed out, after the initial expenses the advantages are multiple today.
The electrics are much cheaper – no need for marine gears, etc. Also, seeing as many of these canals run through urban areas, the quiet running of these electric-powered barges will be much appreciated.
And, let’s face it, this being the Low Countries – Holland namely ‑ battery recharging could well be accomplished by wind power or some other source.
This is just one more example of alternate technology replacing fossil fuels. Something quieter, cleaner and requiring less maintenance – the wave of the future.
In the early 20th Century three modes of power were in contention — steam, electrical, and internal combustion. Steam hung around for quite a long time, especially in bigger applications such as locomotives, but electricity did not, except for large applications or small motors kept dry (the Panama Canal locks are all powered electrically).
The internal combustion engine emerged triumphant. With a cheap source of abundant fuel, this piston and crankshaft mode of power was simply more practical and convenient than all the others – for the time.
No longer! With modern technology, electrical power is now ascendant. One more mode of power not dependant upon fossil fuels.
Wave of the future? You bet!