First fuel cell passenger boat is unveiled

A fuel cell system will be used for the first time in marine passenger transport this year, when a boat carrying up to a hundred passengers goes into commercial service in Germany.

The ZemShip (Zero Emission Ship), based in the port of Hamburg, will run on a hybrid unit integrating two of Proton Motor’s 48 kW fuel cell systems and a lead gel battery.

Proton Motor says the system should deliver twice the fuel efficiency of a standard diesel-engine ship thanks to an intelligent energy management system that co-ordinates the output of power between the fuel cells and the battery.

The fuel cell hybrid system provides the ship with a non-polluting and near-silent drive. It uses up to 50kg of gaseous hydrogen stored in onboard tanks, sufficient to provide fuel for around three days’ use.

The European Union is investing €2.4 million in ZemShip’s development, realisation and operation until 2010.

The boat will run on the normal tourist routes on the Alster lake and the River Elbe in the area of the Port of Hamburg i.e. not only as a ferry on an enclosed body of inland water: the specification also includes operation under the conditions to be expected on a waterway with a connection to the sea and subject to tidal influences.

After a test phase the operator will gradually take the boat into commercial service later this year. Technicians will collect information on the performance of the hybrid zero emission drive and identify areas of improvement to feed into the Proton Motor’s ongoing commercialisation programme. The power system has been certified for maritime operations by Germanischer Lloyd.

The ZemShip project, which began in November 2006, is co-ordinated by the city of Hamburg and is supported by eight other partners as well as Proton Motor.

To date, fuel cell systems of equivalent performance have only been used for maritime applications in military submarines.

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