Electric Ship History

Electrically powered ships are not new. The first surface ship propelled by electric motors was the Navy's USS Langley (formerly Jupiter), launched in 1912. The early electrically powered naval vessels employed two electrical systems: one for propulsion and the other for services such as lights, radar, sonar, cargo pumps, cranes and any other required systems. After the 1940s most electric-drive ships fell out of favor because of the inefficiency of having two separate electric systems. A shift occurred for commercial ship builders in the 1980s, however, when the development of motor drives allowed for the connection of those two electrical systems. As a result, for the past 20 years, new cruise ships have been electrically powered. Newer tankers, shuttle ships, and ferries have also shifted over to this integrated electrical approach.

Navy Christens the Advanced Electric Ship Generator
8/23/05 - ONR (U.S. Department of Defense)

Yet the technologies used in these commercial applications are insufficient to the demands of naval vessels. For this reason, the Navy has undertaken a major research initiative, drawing on the expertise of several leading U.S. universities, to develop the technology needed for all-electric naval vessels. In 2005, the Office of Naval Research christened the Advanced Electric Ship Demonstrator. Known as the "Sea Jet", the 133-foot vessel is a model of a destroyer-size surface ship and is being used to test and demonstrate various technologies.

Ships designed under the DDX program will be the first combat vessels to employ the integrated power system. The first DDX destroyer was recently designated DDG 1000 and named "Zumwalt", in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt, Jr..

Navy Designates Next-Generation Zumwalt Destroyer
4/0/06 - U.S. Department of Defense