The zero-emission ferry Sea Change is about to start operating in the San Francisco Bay. The ferry is powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells and is the first of its kind for public transport.
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The 70-foot vessel will carry 75 passengers at a time and make several stops along the San Francisco waterfront. Built at the All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, Washington, the ferry has been tested by the U.S. Coast Guard.
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Pace Ralli, chief executive of Switch Maritime, said: “We are in the water, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and it is the first commercial vessel in the world to have this propulsion system.”
Sea Change marks an industry milestone as the world moves towards zero emissions. Trucks, cars, trains and luxury ships have all introduced clean energy in previous years, but passenger ships have fallen behind.
Considered one of the best clean energy options, hydrogen fuel cells emit only water and heat. However, using hydrogen batteries presents challenges due to the bulky battery system and cost.
Larry said he first came up with the idea of the ferry while living in New York. To decarbonize sea travel, he considers developing hydrogen fuel-powered ferries. “California has a project sponsored by the California Air Resources Board, and they’re looking at hydrogen fuel cells as a way to decarbonize ships, so we partnered with them and funded their project in 2019,” Larry said.
The ferry is powered by three hydrogen fuel cell stacks that propel the system. It can sail at speeds of up to 20 knots, and the automation system operates via a digital touchscreen, which initiates communication with the engine.
“This is going to be the next standard for fuel cell powered ships. They are clean, efficient and economical at scale,” said Jeff Sokolik, All American Marine project manager.
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