What is deemed the world’s first passenger ship powered by hydrogen fuel cells has quietly been plying the waters of Germany’s city of Hamburg now since 2009. The result of a collaborative project between the European Union and a coalition of other partners public and private to develop cleaner small cruise ships for navigating rivers in Europe, the FCS Alsterwasser is said to now have clocked about 1900 hours, or over 7000 miles, since it has been in service.
The ship, reported Maritime Propulsion (hat tip to Green Optimistic), is owned by ATG (Alster-Touristik GmbH) and used to take up to 100 passengers on the river Alster and the “inner-city waterways” of Hamburg, where it is based. It is propelled by two hydrogen fuel systems making use of 12 hydrogen fuel tanks. It can also fall back to a 560 V lead-gel battery should an alternative power source be needed.
The idea of the FCS Alsterwasser is captured in the concept of something called Zemships [PDF]. It is a model envisioned by the EU to “test practical emission-free ship operation and to promote the use of its technology for maritime applications.” This includes not only testing the viability of how these ships operate on the riverways, but also examining the corresponding infrastructure necessary to fuel and maintain boats powered by fuel cells.
Designed at the Oortkaten shipyard and powered by fuel cell technology from Proton Motor [PDF], the FCS Alsterwasser apparently had to be specially configured for the usual comfort requirements of passengers as well as the spatial needs of the clean energy technology. The electric motor which propels the boat gets about 100 kW, or 130 horsepower, of energy from the hydrogen cells, but to make sure the power is continuous throughout a trip requires that 50 kg of the gaseous fuel be stored in 350-bar pressure tanks on board. This is enough to cover up to three days of operation.
What’s described as a “sophisticated energy management system” helps to determine whether power is coming from the fuel cells or the battery. Refueling the ship at its base station takes about 12 minutes, and its been recorded for 2012 the FCS Alsterwasser has had a C02 savings of around 13.300 kg.