First Fuel Cell Powered Commercial Passenger Boat Inaugurated in Germany

The first hydrogen fuel cell powered passenger ship sits ready for trials - Photo courtesy of FuelCellWorks.comThe world’s first passenger boat powered with fuel cells made its maiden voyage in Hamburg, Germany last Friday.

The hybrid fuel cell drive for the passenger ferry FCS Alsterwasser was produced by Proton Motor based in Puchheim, Germany.

Until now fuel cell motors of this capacity for marine applications have only been used for military uses in submarines, though Proton Motor is also exploring similar technology for use in small trucks, buses and forklifts.

Dubbed the “ZemShip” (zero emission ship), the Alsterwasser, will undergo test runs until November, when it will begin carrying up to 100 passengers on tourist cruises.

Hybrid drive fuel cell

The PM  Basic A50 fuel cell The drive system for the ZemShip is comprised of two 48 kilowatt PM Basic A 50 fuel cells along with a lead gel battery. The system is controlled by an “intelligent” energy management system to coordinate power between the fuel cells and battery. Up to 50 kilograms (about 110 pounds) of hydrogen gas is stored in 350–bar pressurized tanks, giving the ZemShip about three days of use between fueling. The drive system is nearly twice as efficient as a standard diesel powered ship, without the noise and emissions.

The European Union has invested 2.4 million Euros ($3.4 million and change) in the project and will fund the ship’s operation until 2010.

Eight other partners are adding key support in the project, such as Linde AG, who built a hydrogen fueling station for the Alsterwasser.

On hand for the inaugural ceremonies on Friday was German Minister of Transport, Building, and Urban Affairs Wolfgang Tiefensee and Proton CTO Felix Heidelberg.

“The FCS Alsterwasser is a prime example of innovation and we are very proud of it,” said Heidelberg, “It proves that even today we can make use of future technology in everyday applications. Thanks to our further development of fuel cell technology, a non-polluting and virtually silent drive can now be used on a passenger ship”.


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Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications.