RAND to Study All-Electric Ships for U.S. Navy

National Defense Research Institute (NDRI) researchers at RAND's Pittsburgh office recently received funding from the Office of Naval Research to help develop analytic tools to explore near- and far-term benefits of an all-electric ship.

In January 2000, then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig announced that ships in the next class of Navy destroyers would be electric. However, the Navy is now reconsidering its plans to build electric ships because of uncertainty about the costs and benefits of the technologies involved. Still, research in the area continues, and RAND is contributing to that research.

Potential benefits of electric-drive ships include improved fuel efficiency, flexible design ability, reduced internal volume, and improved signatures, among others. The Royal Navy is already committed to an electric-drive ship for its next generation destroyer.

As part of the research effort, data on the real-world operating behavior of Navy destroyers will be used to more accurately assess total onboard energy requirements. Also, data collected from previous Navy work will be used to determine and analyze the most critical ship components needed to realize benefits for electric propulsion. Some of the technologies that will be considered include high-temperature superconducting electric motors, advanced gas turbine engines, fuel cell auxiliary power supplies, podded propulsor technologies, and others.