Ballard And ABB Building Hydrogen Fuel Cell Boat

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Electrifying vehicles for a green future involves more than just cars. In collaboration with ABB Marine and other consortium partners, Ballard Power Systems is developing a zero-emission push boat.

  • The maritime industry is a big contributor to pollution, yet receives far less attention than automobiles.
  • A new Push boat being developed in Europe will be powered entirely by a hydrogen fuel-cell system.
  • If successful, the technology could be applied to other shipbuilders, possibly even scaled-up to the worst polluters, ocean going freighters.

Through the Flagships project, dedicated to clean water transport in Europe, the team plans to launch the boat in France in 2021. First off, what is a push boat and why is it particularly important to turn attention to the craft? Push boats move river barges, providing power to safely pilot them through the waterways. In the process, they spit out a lot of pollution, both carbon dioxide into the air, as well as petroleum products and particulates into the water itself. In the maritime industry, transports put out approximately 940 million tons of CO2 annually.

The push boat will get its power from two of Ballard’s hydrogen fuel next-generation 200-kilowatt fuel cell modules planned for delivery in 2020. In addition, the rest of the energy chain will be emission-free, with the hydrogen fuel sourced from shore-based renewable energy.

Toyota-sponsored boat touring ocean for 6 years partially powered by hydrogen


The Rhône river will be the testing grounds for the push boat, which will be owned and operated by Sogestran Group subsidiary Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (CFT). With this project, the consortium hopes to demonstrate fuel cell-powered propulsion offers not only compatibility with the environment but also a cost-effective alternative for builders of mid-sized vessels carrying more than 100 passengers or the equivalent freight volumes through inland or coastal routes.

Europe is doing its part to accelerate adoption of clean technology. This project gets funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public private partnership established under Europe’s Horizon 2020 frameworks, which focuses on commercial realization of the technology in a range of transport and energy uses. Funding also comes from Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research.

It’s conceivable that if successful, the hydrogen fuel cell system could be scaled either down for personal transport, or up to be used on ocean going freighters. The biggest ships in the world are said to produce more pollution annually than several small countries combined.

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