Passenger ferry gets power from hydrogen fuel cell

A passenger ferry powered by a hydrogen fuel cell is set to transport commuters and tourists around Bristol Harbour.

The fuel cell on board the new boat dubbed Hydrogenesis will use hydrogen and oxygen to produce energy, with water and heat as by-products.

Jas Singh, managing director of Auriga Energy and designer of the fuel cell, told The Engineer: ‘It’s a steel-welded fuel-cell-powered boat that has been built to demonstrate boats can run on fuel cells.’

The zero-emission ferry that has been built by Bristol Hydrogen Boats — a consortium formed between No 7 Boat Trips, the Bristol Packet, and Auriga Energy Ltd — will be powered by a 12kW hydrogen fuel cell that will accelerate it to speeds of six to 10 knots. Air Products will provide the hydrogen fuel and the refuelling infrastructure.

Singh explained that Auriga Energy is also responsible for developing the boat’s power management unit. ‘Managing the power in the boat in accordance with the demands from the pilot and the throttle is the trick,’ he said.

He hopes that certification and insurance issues preventing such fuel-cell technology from taking off in larger boats will be overcome through demonstrating Hydrogenesis.

‘We’re building this as a 12 seater in order to enable the MCA [Maritime Coastal Agency] to use this as a point of reference to write the regulations for bigger boats,’ said Singh. ‘Anything above a 12 seater and there are these horrendous regulations.’

Shipping accounts for two per cent of Britain’s carbon emissions, according to the Committee on Climate Change.

‘Eventually, maybe in 50 years time, I can see the worldwide massive ship systems being fuelled and run by hydrogen fuel-cell systems,’ said Singh. ‘The whole world is using diesel. In 50 years’ time, Africa will have industrialised and diesel will become very scarce.’

Singh revealed he has been discussing plans for larger boats with operators over the past few months. He expects they will come to fruition within the next three to four years.