China’s state media say the nation has developed its most powerful steam turbo generator unit, with the potential to meet the huge electricity demands to power electromagnetic catapults as well as electromagnetic railguns.
Developed by the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corp’s No 704 Institute, a 20-megawatt steam turbo generator prototype – four times as much as current generators in use – recently passed its test run and is set to be mounted on a People’s Liberation Army warship, likely a destroyer, for further tests.
The Global Times reported that 20 megawatts with huge peripheral battery packs would be sufficient to propel a 10,000-ton ship as well as all lights, air-conditioning units and other military devices onboard, and theoretically, several such generators synergized could power larger vessels, even an aircraft carrier.
The US Navy’s futuristic-looking Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer and the UK’s Type 45 destroyer run on fully electric propulsion systems.
The Zumwalt-class has an integrated power system that can send electricity from its turbo-generators to the electric drive motors and weapons.
CSIC is reportedly developing China’s third aircraft carrier and experts expect it will be equipped with an electromagnetic catapult to launch aircraft. China is also reportedly looking to equip its most advanced 10,000-ton-class destroyers the Type 055s with electromagnetic railguns.
Meanwhile, several large ferries in China have already gone all-electric, and a 2,000-ton cargo ship was launched with a battery powertrain in December 2017.
The ship is powered by two 160-kilowatt electric propellers and a mix of supercapacitors and lithium batteries for a total energy capacity of 2.4 megawatt-hours, or roughly 24 batteries from Tesla’s most high-powered vehicle the Model S P100D, for a range of about 80 kilometers, or 43 nautical miles, on a single charge, according to media reports at the time.
It is designed for short routes and is now configured to carry coal up and down the Pearl River in Guangdong province.
Shipyards along the route where the ship operates have been equipped with massive charging systems that can refill the boat’s battery pack in only two hours, about the time it takes to load and unload the ship.