All American Marine (AAM) has won a contract from Switch Maritime to complete the aluminium construction and outfitting of a 21-m, 84-passenger, zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered, electric-drive ferry that will operate in the California Bay Area
The project to build the vessel – both project and vessel are called Water-Go-Round – began at Bay Ship & Yacht shipyard in Alameda, California, and is being transferred to AAM. When launched, the Water-Go-Round vessel will be the US’ first hydrogen fuel cell vessel and the world’s first commercial fuel cell ferry.
The project is funded in part by private capital from Switch Maritime, an investment platform seeking to build North America’s first fleet of zero-emissions vessels. The project is also partially funded by a US$3M grant from the California Air Resources Board, as part of the California Climate Investments initiative, a statewide programme aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The consortium backing the project, Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, will provide the hydrogen fuel cell power package and serve as technical and regulatory consultant on the project.
The e-ferry, which will serve as the flagship vessel for Switch Maritime’s fleet, will use an onboard set of fuel cells arranged in compact stacks – similar to the way banks of batteries are arranged – to minimise the space dedicated to their storage on board. The fuel cells turn hydrogen into electricity by injecting hydrogen on one side and by supplying compressed ambient air on the other side of a proton exchange membrane (PEM fuel cell).
The hydrogen fuel storage is connected to the vessel’s fuel cell powertrain, creating electricity to run the propulsion motors and turning the twin fixed-pitch propellers. Fuel cell systems afford the same operational flexibility as diesel with zero emissions and less maintenance.
AAM president and chief executive Matt Mullett said “We believe hydrogen fuel cell technology will prove to be a robust alternative to conventional powertrain technologies.”
The statement said AAM had been chosen to finish the build based on a track record for delivering state-of-the-art vessels and because the company’s new shipyard has an expanded capacity and production capabilities for larger and more complex vessels.
Switch Maritime is seeking to work with existing ferry operators around the United States to provide capital and technology to accelerate the transition to zero emissions.
The Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine consortium is leveraging technology from BAE Systems and Hydrogenics.
The California project is among many new hydrogen fuel projects, including a major initiative across the Atlantic, that aim to make hydrogen vessels commercially viable.