San Francisco Welcomes World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Commercial Ferry

The first-ever zero-emissions fuel cell ferry is reportedly being trialed for guests in San Francisco.

The Sea Change vessel is powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries and is the world’s first-ever hydrogen-powered ferry.

The ferry is going to start taking guests along the waterfront around late Spring of 2022. A tugboat reportedly bought the ferry to San Francisco from Washington last Sunday.

Hydrogen-Powered Commercial Ferry
Credits: All American Marine / Youtube


The 75-guest catamaran was reportedly developed with $3 million in terms of state funding by Switch Maritime.

The firm comes up with zero-emissions vessels, including Sea Change, where hydrogen fuel cells are optimized to spin the vessel’s propellers.

The Sea Change reportedly holds 10 hydrogen storage tanks that can store about 246 kgs of compressed hydrogen gas at about 250 bars that allows the ferry to function for about 150 nm at a cruising speed of approximately 12 knots. The ferry has the ability to function for about 16 hours before the need to be refueled.

Clean energy at sea

San Francisco Bay Area’s Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) desires to phase out the diesel-powered ferries by 2035. Besides the hydrogen-fuelled ferry pilot assignment, the agency aims to roll out its battery-electric ferries, especially after being awarded a $14.9 million grant from the California State Transportation Agency in 2022.

The shipping industry and passenger ferries account for approximately 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and WETA earnestly hopes that the pilot is going to demonstrate that hydrogen cells can empower the industry to transition from fossil fuels.

Pace Ralli, the CEO of Switch Maritime, informed The San Francisco Chronicle that Sea Change’s hydrogen cells use is a path-breaking step as hydrogen-based fuels and hydrogen are a path to zero-carbon resolutions for large and several high-horsepower applications such as ships.

The $3 million grant received from The California Air Resources Board is a part of a $20 million cap-and-trade auction to develop clean technologies.

The ferry doesn’t yield emissions when in function, but operators are right now unable to achieve pure green or zero-emissions hydrogen to power the Sea Change. Using green hydrogen could also be the next step in fully decarbonizing the ferrying sector.

References: SF Chronicle, Power Technology, Ship And Bunker

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