Proton Fuel Cells Power Hamburger Ferry

The heart of the new ‘Alster steamer’ is an innovative a pair of 50kW fuel cell hybrid drives from Proton Motor.

Published: 19-Jan-2008

Puchheim/Hamburg--Proton Motor, the expert in fuel cell and hybrid systems, is supplying the innovative hybrid drive for the world’s first fuel cell-powered passenger vessel, Zemships (Zero Emission Ships). In summer 2008 the vessel will start operating in Hamburg, on the Alster and in the harbour area, carrying up to 100 passengers per trip – completely emission-free. Today the keel was laid, signalising the start of the next phase of the project funded by the European Union. Proton Motor is entering new territory in fuel cell ship’s engines and underlining its trailblazing role in cleantech and zero-emission solutions.

The heart of the new ‘Alster steamer’ is an innovative fuel cell hybrid drive from Proton Motor. The individually developed complete system PM Turnkey is powered by two PM Basic A 50 50kW fuel cell systems. The integrated battery package takes surplus energy from the fuel cells, for example when the ship is stopped at an interim port and requires less power. When the ship needs maximum power – for example during casting-off and coming aside manoeuvres – the batteries supply the energy back to the engine.

Clean and energy-saving
An intelligent energy management system controls the division of work between fuel cells and battery. This ensures maximum efficiency of operation. The fuel used is hydrogen, which is stored on board in pressurised tanks. The ship stores enough fuel so that it only needs to be refuelled about once every three days. Passengers also benefit from the innovative drive system, because the vessel produces no exhaust gases and is very quiet.

“With the integrated Proton Motor fuel cell hybrid drive the vessel isn’t only emission-free, it’s almost twice as efficient as conventional diesel ships. This project shows that our products are ready for everyday use. It offers an opportunity to open up a whole new market and extends our pioneering role in the cleantech industry,” says Anno Mertens, Zemships project manager at Proton Motor.

Extensive network
In addition to Proton Motor, a number of other partners are contributing their specific expertise to the project. Starting in summer 2008 the vessel will be operated by ATG Alster-Touristik GmbH, a subsidiary of Hamburg’s public transport company, Hamburger Hochbahn AG. ATG is also responsible for designing the hull. Linde AG is constructing a hydrogen refuelling station on a side canal of the river Alster to supply the necessary fuel. A total of nine partners are involved in the pioneering Zemships project under the leadership of the Urban Development and Environment Authority of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

Following today’s laying of the keel, the operator is already convinced of the success of the new Alster steamer: “It will be a very special experience to sail on the Alster, through the canals and waterways, on a modern vessel which is completely emission-free. ATG will be operating a proper Alster steamer again, but this time the steam will come from pure water vapour,” says Jens Wrage, the managing director of ATG.

Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH
Proton Motor is the expert in industrial fuel cells, fuel cell systems and hybrid systems with more than 13 years of experience in the industry. The company, based in Puchheim, near Munich, offers a full range of fuel cell and hybrid systems from a single source – from development and manufacture to the implementation of customised solutions. The fuel cell experts focus on back-to-base applications, such as for forklift trucks or city buses, and on stationary solutions. The product portfolio comprises PM Basic basic fuel cell systems, the PM Package standard complete systems, e.g. as battery replacements, and customised PM Turnkey systems. Proton Motor is a fully-owned subsidiary of Proton Power Systems plc. The company has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since October 2006 (code: PPS).

From autumn 2008 onwards, the "Alsterwasser" will run on zero-emission hydrogen power instead of conventional diesel fuel. The main advantages of the technology used in this project lie in the prevention of pollutant emissions, its low-noise operation and the great efficiency of the drive systems. Since neither diesel fuel nor lubricants are necessary for operation, this eliminates the risk of water pollution by these substances. In Hamburg the "Alsterwasser" will be operated by Alster-Touristik GmbH on Hamburg's city-centre lake.

The fuel will be pure hydrogen from Linde Gas, which will be stored on board in pressure vessels. In two PEM fuels cells by Proton Motor, the hydrogen will be mixed with air and converted into electrical energy – with a power output of around 100 kW.

Germanischer Lloyd is responsible for safety certification, and the scientific back-up for the project is provided by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). A far-sighted project: a cooperation project with partners including the Transport Ministry in Prague is already making sure of sales channels to Eastern Europe.

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