May 25, 2021

Image courtesy of Water-Go-Round

As alternative energy sources promising reduced or zero carbon emissions gain in popularity, old technology allows SWITCH Maritime LLC (SW / TCH) Water-Go-Round Project to accomplish something new in the United States – the very first commercial hydrogen fuel cell, zero-emission e-ferry called Sea change.

When built, the 70’84 passenger e-ferry will give San Francisco Bay Area passengers another way to get around while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The construction of the e-ferry is financed by SWITCH Maritime, an impact investment platform building the first fleet of zero emission vessels in North America. The Water-Go-Round project also received a grant of $ 3 million for partial funding of the California Air Resources Council.

The project is supported by Zero emission industries, a full-service provider of hydrogen fuel cell power systems, as well as the partners As BAE systems, Hexagonal composites, and the Port of San Francisco.

Although the use of fuel cells in marine propulsion is new, the technology itself has been around for centuries. First invented in 1838 by Sir William Grove, a Welsh physicist, fuel cell technology advanced throughout the 20th century and was eventually incorporated into many different applications. It was used aboard the Apollo 11 mission and can be found on buses and trains today.

A fuel cell is essentially made up of three different building blocks: an anode, an electrolyte and a cathode. There are different types of fuel cells, using different types of fuel, but they all work the same.

In the case of the hydrogen fuel cell, a catalyst reacts with hydrogen and produces positively charged ions as well as negatively charged electrons. The electrolyte absorbs positive ions, while electrons travel through a wire to create an electrical charge. After passing through the electrolyte, the positive ion pairs with the negative electron in the cathode and reacts with oxygen to create water as waste.

When applied to marine propulsion systems, hydrogen fuel cells provide clean energy without emitting greenhouse gases. Ships powered by hydrogen fuel cell systems will only create water as waste and significantly reduce other pollutants produced by diesel or even hybrid / diesel propulsion systems.

Construction of Sea change begins to Ship and yacht in the bay Co. in Alameda, California SWITCH Maritime then assigned All American sailors, Bellingham, Wash., A contract to complete construction of the ship’s aluminum structure and equipment.

The e-ferry will carry an H2 network of tanks with 264 kg, 250 bars of compressed gas, allowing up to two days of operation before refueling. The powertrain is designed by Zero Emission Industries and powered by a 360 kW fuel cell provided by Cummins Hydrogenics. The vessel will be able to reach 22 knots with the supercharging power produced by 100 kWh batteries located in its hull.

SWITCH Maritime Views of the Water-Go-Round project Sea change as a demonstration of the capability of the hydrogen fuel cell in marine applications. The company said it hopes to pave the way for the implementation of this technology in the marine industry to move towards zero emissions.