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ZEI: $2M Award For Hydrogen Small-Fast Harbor Boat

ZEI's previous project, a hydrogen fuel cell ferry

On the heels of design and development of a hydrogen-powered ferry, San Francisco based Zero Emission Industries (ZEI, formerly Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine) was recently awarded a $2 million grant by the California Energy Commission (CEC) for the design, construction and test of a new hydrogen fuel cell powered small-fast harbor craft. California and CEC tapped the ZEI team as part of an effort to foster development and deployment of real-world zero-emission solutions for important yet challenging and critically underserved markets.

The project includes the development and integration of the most powerful operationally diverse zero emission powertrain in maritime history. The powertrain will consist of a state-of-the-art hydrogen storage system, fuel cell package, power system, safety system, control and automation system allowing for a powertrain with increased range, simple maintenance, and no emissions.

The CEC grant will fund the deployment of ZEI’s portable refueling infrastructure, a technological breakthrough which will solve the fundamental challenge of refueling small boats safely and economically, a barrier that has hindered greater potential sales of hydrogen fuel cell vessels.

A small-fast zero emission vessel solution will have a profound impact on the boating market, the economy, and air quality. California is home to over 1 million boats, and more than 98% of them are under 40 feet long. Vessels of that size have a wide variety of uses: patrol, fire/rescue, fishing, pilot, excursion, ferry/taxi, and recreation. Speed can range from a few knots to over 50 knots. There are, however, few, if any, viable zero emission solutions for that market. The limited power density of batteries makes high speed over extended durations difficult. Powering the craft with hydrogen fuel cells will eliminate a significant source of GHG emissions.

ZEI, led by CEO Dr. Joseph Pratt, is composed of a team of hydrogen experts with technological expertise in the design, development, and deployment of hydrogen fuel cell power systems and other critical hydrogen technology. ZEI is known for its Water-Go-Round ferry (now renamed by the vessel owner the Sea Change), the first commercial hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the United States. Construction has been completed on the vessel, and sea trials begin in summer 2021.

The company is also working with strategic partners to achieve the project results that can bring its visions to fruition. Watershed Innovation, a division of Correct Craft, is collaborating with ZEI to provide the boat hull set that will be repowered with hydrogen. Watershed will bring its experience in the recreational maritime market, where it has developed environmentally friendly propulsion technologies, telematic solutions, and large-format 5 axil milling.

ZEI has also partnered with the Advanced Power and Energy Program at University of California Irvine, who will collect and process project, vessel and system data to provide clear, unbiased conclusions regarding the performance and usage of the hydrogen systems. The data collected from this project will inform the most effective path toward eliminating maritime emissions for the small fast vessel market.

Partner Ocean5 Naval Architects will utilize vessel design, surfacing, hydrostatic analysis, and 3D modeling tools to enable optimum design for everything from the vessel hull to the onboard structures. With experience in first implementation on a variety of vessel types and sizes, Ocean5 will ensure that the hydrogen system’s operational profile meshes with the structural design of the small fast boat.

SoCalGas, the Los Angeles-based utility company, is contributing $200,000 in funding for the project.

To date, ZEI has been awarded over $5 million in grants for realization of hydrogen technology ideas.



About Tom Breunig (203 Articles)
Tom Breunig is principal at Cleantech Concepts, a market research firm tracking R&D projects in the cleantech sector. He is a technology industry veteran and former international marketing and communications executive who has worked with organizations in semiconductor design, water monitoring, energy efficiency and environmental sensing. He has spoken at numerous technology and energy conferences.
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