Amelie Binder, 21, TUM, B.Sc. Information Systems

Johannes Hahn, 27, TUM, M.Sc. Management and Technology

Marcus Bischoff, 29, TUM, M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering

Fabian Hildesheim, 21, TUM, B.Sc. Electrical Engineering and Information Technology

First of all, congrats on being one of the winning Teams again!

You have taken first place in the European Student Challenge with your idea ,,Cargo Kite“. What is your Project about? How did you come up with the Name?

More than 90% of global trade are carried by sea. Due to globalization, global trade and sea transport will continue to grow in the years ahead. The vast majority of goods is transported with heavy oil-powered container ships. In consequence, the shipping industry is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions. If shipping were a country, it would be the world’s sixth-biggest polluter. The International Maritime Organization estimates that if no substantial measures are taken, the share of CO2 emissions will further increase by between 50 and 250% and calls for action. We are Cargo Kite and want to tackle this problem with an innovative patent-pending ship that is powered by wind energy, making it the world’s only high-tech solution that produces zero emissions during operation.
To put it simply, our vision is to enable sustainable overseas transport of goods. We have developed a ship that is powered exclusively by wind energy, making it the world’s only high-tech solution that produces zero emissions during operation. The name „Cargo Kite“ is how we think we can best explain what our product is: a cargo ship that uses a kite as propulsion.

How exactly does it work?

The ship’s main propulsion is an Airborne Wind Energy system, typically used for stationary power generation. Its main component is a tethered kite flying at an altitude of 100 to 300 meters. This way, the energy of highly available high-altitude winds is directly transformed into kinetic energy of the ship and any energy storage is made obsolete.

What’s the biggest struggle in realizing this idea, if there is any?

I wouldn’t exactly call it struggle but it’s a challenge to raise enough money to build the ship, at least it’s a lot more expensive than developing a software product. Basically, the costly development process of a complete new boat, especially with investors getting their investment back after 10 years at the latest.

How much does the development cost? Do you have estimations on that?

A small scale prototype is about 2 million €.; 1 ship ready for market entry costs about 5 million; We estimate the costs to be about 20 million € in total until market entry. The ship can be produced serially, so the production cost for a single ship can be lowered over time.

What has the experience with your mentor been like? what kind of feedback have you been given that was helpful or how did you benefit from the collaboration? 

It was an amazing experience. We have truly developed a connection with our mentor over the course of the program and we will keep in touch with him even after the European Student Challenge. Our mentor, Uwe Ahrens, has a company in roughly the same business that we operate in and has many years of experience with leading a company and building a business venture so he was able to give us advice both on launching a start-up as well as  technological factors. 

Glad to hear! What would you say is the most valuable thing you have learned from taking part in this challenge, whether it’s regarding your product, personal growth, entrepreneurship etc? 

One important lesson was recognizing the value of talking about the progress of our project regularly. We met with our mentor every other week to discuss issues, results and so on – by having to present our progress to an independent third party regularly we were able to progress a lot faster, that was an additional push.

So what’s next?

We are applying for the EXIST-Forschungstransfer, a program by the BMWI to develop our first Prototype, the Proof of Concept. We’re handing in our application this January. We are also currently expanding our team, approaching potential future customers to learn as much as possible about how to best address their issues.

One last question: What’s the first you’re going to spend the prize money on? 😀

We already spent quite a bit for a Patent.

Thank you to Team Cargo Kite for their time and insightful answers!