Everything We Know About Mitsubishi’s ‘Roboship’ Fuel Hauler


Anyone who only pays partial attention to Mitsubishi could easily make the mistake that the brand only produces JDM Vehicles. With a range of economy crossovers and pickup trucks and one of the cheapest cars on the market, the Mirage. The modern Mitsubishi will hardly attract the attention of enthusiasts, as with the Lancer Evolution series of cars. Mitsubishi’s automotive wing is public, but only a small part of the company’s business.

The Japanese manufacturer has equally large divisions in electronics and heavy industry. The latter is a major supplier in the defense market. As an island nation, Japan relies heavily on naval trade. Understanding this market, Mitsubishi is leading the charge in creating a sustainable coastal vessel industry.

With a space-age name, Mitsubishi’s ship is building a sustainable future.

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What is “Roboshipping”?

Nagasaki Shipyard

Mitsubishi presents the Roboship as the future of freighters. As is common for a project of this magnitude, several companies operate in partnership. Mitsubishi claims that e5 Lab Inc. and their own Mitsubishi Shipbuilding designed the Roboship. Production will be under another company, Honda Heavy Industries, the industrial wing of the Honda Motor Company. The ship is a biofuel carrier, meaning it will move a range of animal and plant matter. This is then used as a more sustainable fuel by both energy and industry. The vessel is due to enter service in 2023, supporting Aioi Bioenergy Corporation.

The main objective of this project is to reduce emissions from cargo ships. It’s a pretty noble cause. According to Our World In Data, 16.2% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transport. The fact that they run on diesel is even more vilifying for freighters. With fossil fuels being much dirtier than initially thought, the industry needs a serious overhaul to become sustainable. That’s where Mitsubishi’s Roboship comes in. It enables what Mitsubishi calls “Marine Future Stream”, their process of electrifying and digitizing the shipping industry. Other projects the company is working on aim to make shipping self-sufficient.

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How does the Roboship reduce CO2?

Mitsubishi Gas Turbine

The vessel is capable of holding 499 tons of cargo, with the new hybrid power system capable of displacing 749 tons. Mitsubishi says a “hybrid system of high-capacity storage batteries and generators” will power this ship. The boat uses a twin fin design, two propellers at the rear of the vessel. As a result, Mitsubishi claims that when cruising, power is reduced by 20%, meaning a more efficient ship. In an even more impressive move, the manufacturer claims CO2-free operation in the ports. Generators can run on a range of fuels including hydrogen, ammonia and biofuels. It’s unclear if the ship will launch in a truly carbon-neutral state, but at least the heart of the business is in the right place.

Improved durability isn’t the ship’s only novelty. Mitsubishi sought to digitize the expedition. Switching from diesel fuel to renewable energy increases reliability and reduces maintenance demands, thereby reducing crew workload. This has both positives and negatives depending on who you ask. However, this standardized system reduces running costs, which will surely delight companies operating the vessel. Other improvements include reduced noise, less vibration. The vessel will use the Marindows digital platform, which connects vessel processes to the cloud. This service was launched in early 2021.

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