Nissan Unveils "World's First" Spherical Prow Cargo Ship to Transport LEAFs With Less Emissions
Although most of us often tend to think about our "stuff" and its associated impacts as starting from the moment we begin using it, the fact of the matter is all of our "stuff" has racked up a laundry list of environmental, societal, and economic impacts far before the moment we take possession of it.
Case in point: even though the Nissan LEAF is the most fuel efficient and least polluting mass-produced vehicle on the planet—giving those of us that drive it, or aspire to, beaucoup bragging rights—none of them are currently made here in the U.S., so they all must be shipped from Japan. The cargo ships that transport them are notorious for pollution. In fact, one recent study concluded that a mere 15 of the world's largest ships could emit as much pollution as all the world's 760 million cars—a staggering result.
Although these numbers are attributable to only one study—far from conclusive—it is enough to start you thinking there must be ways to reduce emissions from these ships while still maintaining their economic viability. Much of the pollution in the ships comes from the use of heavy fuel oil, also know as bunker fuel. This fuel is literally the bottom of the barrel and contains orders of magnitude higher levels of pollutants and toxins than the fuels used on land. Regulations have started cropping up around the globe to restrict the use of this type of fuel close to shore—including in California—and Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, has targeted a fleet-wide 20% reduction in emissions by 2017, partly by using biofuel blends as well as supporting a carbon tax.
But there are other ways to reduce emissions besides changing the fuel mix, and Nissan, in an effort to reduce its own fleet emissions, has unveiled a 21,000 ton, 2,000 vehicle capacity cargo ship that uses a spherical prow to reduce wind drag and increase efficiency—thereby reducing emissions. Called "The City of St. Petersburg" Nissan's new ship will be put into operation taking vehicles from the company's plants in England and Spain to Northern Europe and Russia.
"You can say that the ship’s spherical prow design is the world’s first," said Satoshi Yako, Nissan's Senior Manager, of Supply Chain Management, in an NTD TV post. "Thanks to this aerodynamic design we expect to see a substantial reduction in the ship’s fuel consumption.”
While it's certainly far from optimal, it's at least a step in the right direction... too bad it won't be transporting LEAFs from Japan to the U.S. between now and 2012 when the Smyrna, Tennessee LEAF/battery operation commences manufacturing and we can all buy LEAFs made in the U.S. and transported by the much less polluting methods of train and semi truck.
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