BAE Provides Zero-Emission Propulsion for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Ferry in Bay Area

Sea Change
Sea Change
Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75-passenger zero-emissions, hydrogen fuel cell-powered, electric-drive ferry, will operate in the California Bay Area as the region’s first hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the U.S. Photo: SWITCH Maritime.

Electric propulsion provider BAE Systems has installed a zero-emission propulsion system in the first U.S. hydrogen fuel cell powered marine vessel, the Sea Change, which is set to operate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

UK-based BAE revealed in late November that it has provided its HybriGen Power and Propulsion system to hydrogen technology company Zero Emission Industries for integration on the Sea Change.

The vessel is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell power package, provided by Zero Emission Industries, that is comprised of 360 kW of Cummins fuel cells and Hexagon hydrogen storage tanks with a capacity of 246 kg. The system, according to ZMEI, is integrated with 100 kWh of lithium-ion battery provided by XALT and a 2x 300 kW electric propulsion system provided by BAE Systems.

The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain system affords the same operational flexibility as diesel with zero emissions and less maintenance, the companies involved in the project have said.

The project was funded and is owned by SWITCH Maritime, an investment firm building a fleet of zero-carbon, electric-drive maritime vessels.

BAE Systems’ propulsion system with Zero Emission Industries’ hydrogen and fuel cell system and lithium-ion batteries replaces a traditional combustion engine. The all-electric system eliminates diesel fuel use and reduces engine maintenance to create a clean mode of transportation, according to BAE.

“We are committed to getting our customers to zero emissions with highly reliable and flexible systems that are proven on land and in the water,” said Steve Trichka, BAE Systems’ vice president and Power & Propulsion Solutions general manager,. “This historic milestone is the next step on that journey, as we provide San Francisco with an innovative solution that reduces emissions and creates a new clean form of daily transportation.”

BAE worked with the vessel’s builder, Bellingham, Wash.-based All American Marine, and designer, Incat Crowther of Sydney, Australia, after previously teaming with both companies on multiple projects.

“Hydrogen-fuel cell technology will prove to be a robust alternative to conventional powertrain technologies,” AAM President & COO Ron Wille said. “We are so proud to have completed construction on such a revolutionary vessel.”

The project is partially funded by a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board, administered by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The money comes from the California Climate Investments initiative, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment.