Fuel Cell Watercraft

SF BREEZE concept, © Sandia National Laboratories

Hydrogen and fuel cells are becoming ever more popular in the maritime industry. After many years spent on research and development, it seems as if both technologies could enter the market soon. Launched in 2009, the e4ships flagship project had been a way to explore a variety of options for fuel cell use in the shipping market. Seven years later, the venture and all of its subprojects came to an end.

Around that time, in September 2016, those involved gathered for a conference to discuss e4ships’ successes and failures, finding that the millions of euros the National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology had poured into the endeavor had done little to encourage progress (see H2-international, October 2016 and March 2017).


HyFerry, a subproject with the aim of studying fuel cell ferry operations in the North Sea, was paradoxically one that the industry abandoned quite early on. Nowadays, ferries are among the most promising application areas for the technology in the maritime sector. Just last August, Siemens and PowerCell Sweden inked a cooperation agreement to advance fuel cell-powered marine propulsion. Joachim Hoffmann, who works at Siemens Marine, confirmed to H2-international that Norwegian hybrid ferries in particular are making waves – in a good way.

Demonstration projects continue


Since many still believed that there was strong potential for growth, the German government set up e4ships 2.0 in 2017. That decision also prompted the creation of several follow-on projects, namely MultiSchIBZ, SchIBZ2, Pa-X-ell 2, RiverCell 2 and ELEKTRA.


The successor to Pa-X-ell again focuses on powering systems and equipment aboard cruise liners. It intends to install methanol fuel cells throughout a passenger ship to ensure that each fire zone is independently supplied with electrical and thermal energy, even when the ship is in port (see fig. 2).

RiverCell 2, launched in April 2017, uses fuel cells made by Serenergy and alternative (low flash-point) fuels to develop and test a hybrid engine that can supply all the energy aboard a river cruiser. The project will run until September and is being supported with EUR 2.1 million.

read more: January issue 2019

see also: Radically New Marine Propulsion

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