First fuel cell ship goes into service

The heart of the “FCS Alsterwasser”, the innovative hybrid fuel cell drive, was produced by Proton Motor

On 29 August, 2008, Hamburg celebrated the world’s first emission free fuel cell ship. In the presence of Wolfgang Tiefensee, Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Hamburg’s senator Anja Hajduk named the FCS Alsterwasser, a passenger ship driven by fuel cells. The innovative hybrid fuel cell drive which lies at the heart of the new Alster steamship was produced by Proton Motor, experts in fuel cell and hybrid systems. The ZemShip (Zero Emission Ship), based in Hamburg’s port, transports up to 100 passengers at a time, without producing any emissions.

The ZemShip project is taking Proton Motor into totally new waters in fuel cell ship drive technology. To date, fuel cell systems for marine applications of this performance level have only been developed for submarines used by the military. This makes the ZemShip the world’s first project resulting in a fuel cell-driven passenger ship.


Fuel Cell Ship: FCS Alsterwasser

Proton Motor developed the 48 kW PM Basic A 50 maritime fuel cell system for the zero-emission drive and integrated two such systems, along with a lead gel battery, into the ship as a hybrid system. The systems were certified for maritime operations by Germanischer Lloyd. An intelligent energy management system coordinates the division of work between fuel cells and battery. Up to 50 kg of gaseous hydrogen is stored onboard in 350 bar pressurised tanks in order to provide sufficient fuel for around three days of use.

The European Union is funding the ship’s line operations on the Alster until 2010. The EU is investing a total of €2.4 million in the project. Now that the ship has gone into actual use, development staff aims to test the zero-emission drive in real operations and to analyse the technology for possible areas of improvements.

Twice as efficient as a standard diesel ship

The FCS Alsterwasser is a prime example of innovation and we are very proud of it.

says Anno Mertens, Zemships Project Manager at Proton Motor, when asked about the ZemShip, which is nearly twice as efficient as a standard diesel ship.

It proves that even today we can make use of future technology in everyday applications. Thanks to our further development of fuel cell technology, a non-polluting and virtually silent drive can now be used on a passenger ship. We are delighted that Alster Touristik GmbH, the operator of the ship, once again has a genuine Alster steamboat up and running and that it’s an environmentally friendly one where passengers can enjoy a quiet journey with zero emissions.

The project has received the support of eight other partners alongside Proton Motor. For example, Linde AG has built a hydrogen fuelling station in a side channel of the Alster where the ship can refuel. The project is being coordinated by the city of Hamburg and was launched in November 2006.

Presented with the silver f-cell Award

At the Stuttgart hydrogen exhibition f-cell, on 29 September, 2008, the Zemship was presented with the silver f-cell award. This year, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for the Environment and the Stuttgart Region Economic Development Corporation, together with EnBW AG, presented the f-cell award, which was endowed by the region of Baden-Württemberg, for the fifth time. The objective of the award is to recognise outstanding developments in the area of fuel cells and to stimulate further innovations in this sector. A jury assessed the projects on their technological concept, level of innovation, market potential, economic viability, how they would impact on other sectors and any benefits for society and the environment. The jury were particularly impressed with the practical focus of development of the Zemship and they presented the ship with the silver f-cell award and euros 5,000.