Sea Change ferry is seen docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. The 75-passenger ferry, propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, was built by All American Marine and conceived of by Switch Maritime. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)
A new hydrogen-powered passenger boat is preparing to launch in San Francisco, California.
Builders of the 75-passenger boat, or ferry, say it produces no carbon emissions. The ferry, named Sea Change, is set to begin carrying passengers across San Francisco Bay to several stops in the city in June.
The ferry is completely powered by hydrogen fuel cells. In this kind of power system, the fuel cells convert hydrogen gas into electricity.
Sea Change was built at the All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, in Washington state. It has been undergoing tests with the U.S. Coast Guard in nearby Puget Sound.
The project was financed by Switch Maritime, which owns the Sea Change. The company’s chief executive, Pace Ralli, told Reuters the ferry is the first such vessel in the world to be completely powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Ralli said he got the idea for the ferry while trying to come up with new ways to use less carbon in the maritime industry. He learned of a state-supported project in California that was developing hydrogen fuel cells as a method for “decarbonizing” ships. “So we joined up with them and funded their project in 2019," Ralli said.
The leader of the All American Marine’s project is Jeff Sokolik. He said the hydrogen fuel cells power two propellers that move the ferry at a top speed of about 37 kilometers an hour.
He told Reuters he thinks the fuel cell power systems could one day become a new "standard” for many kinds of ships. He said, “They're clean, they're efficient and they make sense economically…”
Supporters of hydrogen fuel cells say the technology is cleaner than other carbon-cutting methods because the process only releases water and heat. But the high cost and large fuel cell systems have so far limited use of the technology.
"We're focused on the shipping industry because that's where we have expertise, but I don't think any industry can really wait at this point," Ralli said.
He added that he thinks the Sea Change project can lead to more hydrogen fuel cell vessels, including larger ferries, cruise ships and tankers.
Words in This Story
emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source
convert – n. to change the appearance, form or purpose of something
vessel – n. a ship or large boat
maritime – adj. of or relating to the sea
propeller – n. a piece of equipment made of two or more flat metal pieces that turn and cause a ship of aircraft to move
standard – n. a level of quality, especially one that is acceptable
efficient – adj. working well and not wasting time or energy
focus – v. to give special attention to something