If ever there was proof that the world straddles two possible trajectories for its future, China’s latest stunt makes this fact undeniable.

The first-of-its kind, all-electric cargo ship is now operating out of the city of Guangzhou on China’s Pearl River, but it is being used to haul coal – the very substance which it was created to make obsolete.

As reported by China Daily, the 2,000-metric-ton ship was created by the Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Ltd. It can travel 80 kilometers (approximately 50 miles) after being charged for 2 hours. It requires about 2,400 kilowatt hours, or about the same energy of 40 new energy cars.

As noted by Clean Technica, 2 hours is roughly the amount of time it would take to unload the ship’s cargo while docked, so the ship would conceivably have no down-time while in service.

So, why is it being used to haul an environment-damaging fossil fuel? Though this is an irony of all ironies, there’s hope.

“As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment. The technology will soon be likely … used in passenger or engineering ships,” said Huang Jialin, chairman and general manager of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, which designed the electric cargo vessel.

The main motivation for the ship’s creation seems to be monetary, not environmental.

“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,” Chen said.

For now, the ship will be used mainly along the Pearl River to transport coal, to – get this – generate electric power!

Hopefully China’s aim to utilize more solar energy will eventually allow the ship to transfer its energy generating needs from coal to the sun.

China’s all-electric cargo ship will haul coal for now. Image: National Post

In Beijing and Singapore, there are high-end solar projects planned which could eventually make the need for coal and other fossil fuels a moot point.

China’s government has also pledged to spend more than $365 billion on alternative energy projects in the next three years.

What solar cargo ships could look like. Image: LongTailPipe

China has been turning away from coal, though it has ample supplies, because the pollution it has caused is stultifying. Pictures of the smog in Beijing have circulated many mainstream news publications. The country also recently refused shipments of coal from North Korea.

Smog in Beijing, China. Image: Bored Panda

No different than the U.S. and other large economies, China has prospered for years under its oil and coal industries due to powerful political patrons and the growth-above-anything mantra of the ruling Communist Party.

Maybe the world is changing despite itself. We could see truly green energy soon, regardless of the motivations of the mindless machinations of greedy zealots.


Image: Cargo Ship Docked/Avigator Thailand/Shutterstock.