The 300-foot-long (92.2-meter-long) Viking Lady is set to get a battery pack, which will turn the supply vessel into a hybrid ship with technology similar to the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars.

Built in 2009, the Viking Lady already has a fuel cell as part of its propulsion system and was the first merchant ship run with a fuel cell. Now, it's undergoing an upgrade. Researchers expect the Lady's new battery, which they plan to install in 2013, will reduce its fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 to 30 percent. When the ship is in harbor, researchers expect it will run only on its fuel cell and battery, reducing emissions and pollution for people and environments onshore, said Bjørn-Johan Vartdal, a project manager from Det Norske Veritas, a Norwegian risk-management company that is one of three organizations working on the hybrid ship.

The fuel savings means the Viking Lady will pay for itself in two years, according to Det Norske Veritas. Researchers also expect the changes to reduce the Lady's maintenance costs and onboard noise.

It's not clear if the battery will be rechargeable or if it will need occasional replacement. It may be rechargeable: the company that owns the ship, Eidesvik, is working on power-plant ships that are able to deliver electricity to other ships in port.

The Viking Lady is part of a research program run by Eidesvik, Det Norske Veritas and a marine energy company, Wärtsilä, all based in Norway. The program won a place in Sustainia 100, a catalog of promising sustainable solutions to global warming presented at the United Nations' Rio+20 conference June 20.

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