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First hydrogen fuel cell powered ferry in UK showcases green technology

The UK’s first hydrogen-powered ferry – named Hydrogenesis – is operating in Bristol Harbour, demonstrating the practical and commercial advantages of fuel cell technology during a pilot scheme over the summer.

The Hydrogenesis ferry is being operated by Bristol Hydrogen Boats – a consortium between No. 7 Boat Trips, Bristol Packet, and Auriga Energy, which developed the fuel cell system – while Air Products is providing the hydrogen and a dockside refueling station.

Bristol City Council provided initial funding of £225 000 (US$343 000) as part of its Bristol Green Capital initiatives; the city was recently awarded European Green Capital 2015 status. The Hydrogenesis project aims to kickstart enterprise in new environmental technology and new areas of economic growth in Bristol.

‘With the arrival of the heat wave, the prize-winning Hydrogenesis has been demonstrated to operate in all weather conditions, showing the viability of the new zero-emission fuel cell technologies in marine transport operations,’ says Jas Singh, Managing Director of Auriga Energy and spokesperson for the consortium. ‘The project has put Bristol on the world map among the pioneers of the emerging hydrogen economy.’

The Hydrogenesis ferry made its first trial voyage in Bristol Harbour in August 2012. The 11 m (36 ft) vessel, which is licensed to carry up to 12 passengers per journey, began public service in February and will continue until late August, when the hydrogen refueling station is due to be decommissioned as part of the original planning conditions. Hydrogen is stored in a tank at up to 350 bar, which is refueled from a purpose-built Air Products refueler.

‘If the UK is to cut emissions from transport, then hydrogen must be part of the future transport mix,’ says Dr Emma Guthrie, UK Business Development Manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products.

‘Air Products is providing both the SmartFuel® hydrogen and the fueling station for this project, since it is these kinds of innovative ideas we consider to be important in getting the general public, industry and government to take notice of hydrogen and the contribution it could make to cutting air pollution.’

Hydrogenesis will be on the water during the forthcoming Bristol Harbour Festival and throughout the summer, calling at all the landing stages and dropping off by request.

The steel-hulled Hydrogenesis ferry is powered by four Auriga Energy air-cooled PEM fuel cells – containing stacks supplied by Ballard Power Systems – that provide up to 12 kW of steady-state continuous power at 48 V. The Auriga Energy Power Management Unit controls the combined power delivery to the propeller via two permanent magnet Lynch motors.

The ferry operator has found that the various efficiency measures allow up to four days of service before refueling, rather than the anticipated daily refills.

Hydrogen-powered transport has a significantly smaller environmental impact than petrol and diesel engines, with only water coming from the exhaust. This would significantly cut air and water pollution in the harbour – and produce less noise, as the fuel cell is almost silent – if the technology was widely adopted.

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Other marine energy and hydropower