A shipyard in China has built what it says is the world's first all-electric cargo ship, capable of hauling 2,000 metric tons of lading some 50 miles on a single charge.

The ship, built and operated by CSSC Offshore & Marine Engineering (Group) Company Ltd under the China State Shipbuilding Corporation Group, may not have the gross tonnage or range of a container ship—but it doesn't need it.

The all-electric ship will be used only on an inland section of the Pearl River to deliver coal to power stations.

READ MORE: If autonomous electric cars are coming, why not ships too?

In an odd twist, the ship will make it more cost-effective to burn coal at power plants along the river.

The ship's 2,400 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which China Daily equates to roughly 40 electric cars, will reduce the cost of coal shipments for operators of those electricity-generation stations.

"The cost of electric power is less than that (of) traditional fuel. The main cost of the new energy cargo ship depends on how much lithium battery it is equipped with," said Chen Ji, general manager of Guangzhou Shipyard International, the shipbuilding division of CSSC Offshore & Marine Engineering (Group) Company Ltd.

Rolls Royce autonomous cargo ship concept

Rolls Royce autonomous cargo ship concept

The 231-foot ship could theoretically exceed its 2,000 metric ton cargo capacity if it had a larger battery, Chen explained.

In its current configuration, the ship has a top speed of 7 knots (8 mph).

This latest development isn't the only all-electric heavy cargo carrier in the world hauling ironic shipments.

DON'T MISS: How To Send Hybrid Cars From Japan? Diesel-Hybrid Cargo Ship, Of Course

Norfolk Southern Railway has been developing an all-electric locomotive in partnership with Penn State since 2007.

The Altoona Works BP4 locomotive, named NS 999, is built on a repurposed 1969 Electro-Motive Diesel GP 38 platform with its diesel powerplant removed.

That has been replaced by a massive battery pack to power its 1,500-horsepower electric motor.

Altoona Works BP4 all-electric locomotive, NS 999, Mark Levisay/CC BY 2.0

Altoona Works BP4 all-electric locomotive, NS 999, Mark Levisay/CC BY 2.0

NS 999 is a switcher locomotive used to move rail cars from one area to another in a railyard.

And what's Norfolk Southern's most commonly hauled commodity?

You guessed it: coal.


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