Since we last covered fuel cell shipping propulsion in October of 2018, there has been tremendous progress in previously reported projects, and significant new efforts have been announced. Here’s a breakdown of all that’s happened.
On June 12, investment group SW/TCH Maritime announced that it would become the primary investor and eventual owner of the "Water-Go-Round," a fuel cell-powered ferry that will launch later this year, transporting passengers across the San Francisco bay between San Francisco and Oakland, California. The ferry will use BAE Systems electric motors, with fuel cell and hydrogen storage provided by FCHEA members Hydrogenics and Hexagon Composites, respectively.
The Energy Observer, a ship powered by a 20-kW fuel cell using hydrogen produced onboard from seawater, continues its groundbreaking cruise around the world. The sustainable maritime vessel has made forty-one stops in twenty-three countries since launching in 2017 and most recently docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Energy Observer will dock at the Japanese Summer Olympics in 2020 as part of the country’s push for a sustainable Olympics. The Energy Observer project is supported by FCHEA members Toyota and Air Liquide.
In December 2018, HYON AS, a joint venture between FCHEA members Nel and Hexagon Composites and PowerCell Sweden, was awarded two hydrogen maritime fuel cell project grants from the Norwegian government.
The first award is for Project Zero Emissions Fast Ferry, a vessel which will use both hydrogen fuel cell and battery power. According to HYON, the ship will utilize foils that lift the vessel out of the water to attain a cruise speed between 25 and 45 knots and will be able to operate without greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions. HYON states that the vessel can carry between 100-300 passengers and will use approximately 45% less energy than current boats per passenger kilometer.
The second award is for Project SeaShuttle, which will develop and deploy a profitable zero-emissions container transport for short-sea markets using hydrogen fuel cells. According to HYON, the ship concept will include autonomous cargo handling to help achieve cost-effectiveness.
In January 2019, the Japanese Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA) announced that it will team up with FCHEA member Toyota Motor Corp. to develop a fishing boat powered by hydrogen fuel cells. FRA, a Yokohama-based national research and development agency, will begin designing the body of the ship this year and conduct ocean testing in fiscal year 2022. The boat is planned to be used at a tuna farm on the Goto island chain in Nagasaki Prefecture. The fuel cell system being developed for the ship will be based on the powertrain Toyota recently deployed in “Sora,” its new hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus. To reduce production costs and emissions in the supply chain, the hydrogen for the ship will be produced from electrolysis of fresh water, using electricity generated by an offshore wind farm in operation off the island chain.
Japan is not the only East Asian country working with an automaker to develop a fuel cell-powered fishing vessel. In May 2019, FCHEA member Hyundai Motor signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Korea's Gangwon Province to apply hydrogen fuel cell systems to small 5-ton fishing boats. Under the MOU, Hyundai will develop a stack module for ocean-going ships by the end of 2022, improve the performance of its fuel cell systems by 2025 and apply the technology to real ships after 2030.
In June 2019, Norwegian ferry operator Norled announced the development of two ferries which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. The first Norled ferry will have a capacity to hold 80 cars, 10 trucks and 299 passengers, and will sail east of Stavanger in Norway between Hjelmeland, Nesvik and Skipavik. Three tonnes of liquid hydrogen will be stored on board and 400-kW of fuel cells make up the energy system being placed on the top deck. The second ferry is still in the planning phase and will likely utilize compressed hydrogen.
In July 2019, the H2SHIPS project announced the development of two hydrogen-powered shipping pilot programs. The first will be built in the Netherlands and include a hydrogen-powered port and inland waterway vessel. The second will be in Belgium where a hydrogen refueling system suitable for offshore operation is being developed and tested. The project partners will also develop an action plan for the best way to implement hydrogen solutions on the Seine in Paris and in Northwest Europe, including the breadth of the hydrogen value chain. The project has a budget of €6.3 million (~$7 million), will run until July 2022, and began August 27, 2019. In the long term, the project expects to include a total of 58 hydrogen-powered ships in the region by 2032.
In May 2019, Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. announced that it will provide a fuel cell-based power and propulsion solution for a pushboat owned by the French Sogestran Group subsidiary Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (CFT), due for delivery in 2021. The pushboat will be emissions-free, and have 800 horsepower, according to the company. Once complete, the vessel is planned to operate daily, carrying 100 passengers or equivalent freight volumes on inland and coastal French waterways.
On September 8, 2019, France debuted its first hydrogen-powered shuttle in Nantes, called Jules Verne 2. The small shuttle’s route is 3 minutes long between Port-Boyer and Petit-Port neighborhoods, can carry up to 12 passengers and 6-10 bicycles, and can run without refueling for 5-6 days.
As fuel cell shipping propulsion continues to be a hotspot for development, and new projects across the globe, we will continue to put out updates on all the latest exciting news!