Plans to build a sea-going ferry powered using hydrogen-fuel cells advanced on Friday after it was announced that a commercial contract for the development of a concept design had been awarded.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, which is owned by the Scottish government, said in a statement that the contract had been given to the London-headquartered Aqualisbraemar LOC Group.
The two parties will collaborate on the concept, which CMAL said would be based around the needs of a “double-ended sea-going passenger and car ferry, with capacity for 120 passengers and 16 cars or two trucks.”
The idea is that the ferry would be designed to travel between Kirkwall and Shapinsay in Orkney, an archipelago located north of mainland Scotland.
It represents the latest development for the HySeas III project, which has received funding from the European Union.
The goal of Hyseas III is to show that fuel cells can be integrated into a “marine hybrid electric drive system” consisting of tech such as batteries and electric propulsion.
To this end, the project aims to develop, build, test and validate “a full sized drive train on land.” Alongside CMAL, other partners in the consortium include the University of St. Andrews, Orkney Island Council and Kongsberg Maritime.
John Salton, fleet manager and projects director at CMAL, said the contract award constitutes “a significant step forward in establishing a new, innovative vessel concept, and marks an important shift towards entirely emissions-free marine transport.”
“If successful, the next step will be to take the knowledge and know-how into building a ferry,” Salton said.
Other hydrogen ships have already been developed and put into use. Back in 2008, for example, a fuel cell ship capable of carrying passengers entered into service on a lake in Hamburg, Germany.
In March of this year Linde, a firm specializing in engineering and industrial gases, said it had been chosen by Norwegian firm Norled to provide liquid hydrogen and associated infrastructure for a hydrogen-powered ferry. The MF Hydra, as it’s known, will be able to carry both passengers and cars.
In a statement at the time Norled’s CEO, Heidi Wolden, said the firm believed hydrogen would “play a significant role in the future of zero-emission ships.”
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in sectors such as industry and transport.
Ferries are not the only mode of transportation where hydrogen fuel cells could have a role to play.
Hydrogen buses have been used in cities such as London and Aberdeen, for example, while hydrogen fuel cell airplanes have also taken flight in recent years.
Major automobile manufacturers that have dipped into the hydrogen fuel cell market include Toyota and Honda, while smaller firms such as Riversimple are also working on hydrogen powered cars.