AUG 02, 2015 7:36 AM PDT

San Fran's Red And White Fleet Wants To Go Hydrogen-Powered Green, Part II

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
As mentioned in yesterday's part one of this article, the hydrogen refueling station that San Francisco water tour operator the Red and White Fleet and their partners plan to build will be the largest in the world. The station won't just service the Red and White Fleet's . It will also serve fuel cell electric cars, buses and fleet vehicles. It will also provide an incentive to other companies and individuals in the bay area to go hydrogen fuel cell with their vehicles wether they're ships, busses, trucks, cars, or maybe soon someone will invent a hydrogen fuel cell scooter.

A high speed ferry much like the one that will be designed for the SF-BREEZE project

Clearly the Red and White Fleet's idea to partner with a broad coalition of other entities was a good idea. Instead of having to pay for it themselves, The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) is funding the feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects of the project.

Maritime Administrator Paul 'Chip' Jaenichen says, "The Maritime Administration is committed to finding new and efficient technologies for use in the maritime industry that reduce pollution and protect our environment. ... This industry continues moving forward on renewable energy and clean-fuel options, and this project encourages a shift toward lower impact maritime fuels that may further green the waterborne link in our national transportation system."


As you can see from this video, some of the technology required for this project is already up and running.

Sandia National Laboratory, another government partner in the SF-BREEZE project, is leading the study. One of the most crucial aspects they have identified so far is the operational speed of the hydrogen fuel cell powered ferry, which will be critical to the project's economic viability. "Rather than a tour boat that would primarily be a demonstration project," explains Joe Pratt, a mechanical engineer, and the Sandia project lead, "Red and White Fleet believes a high-speed passenger ferry makes economic sense." People in the Bay Area have lots of modes of transportation to choose from: cars, buses, Bay Area Rapid Transit and other ferries, so the SF-BREEZE ferry has to be fast, but choosing to build a high speed ship adds complexity to the project.

"If you are trying to achieve speed, boat weight is important," says Pratt said. "Fuel cells and hydrogen are heavier than existing diesel engines and fuel, so the question becomes can you build a boat powered by hydrogen fuel cells that is both large and fast enough? The feasibility study will provide that answer."

The work on the study done so far indicates the answer is probably yes, but as opposed to simply retrofitting an existing design, accommodating hydrogen fuel and the fuel cell technology to run it will require creating something new. This is why including a naval architect in the feasibility study was essential, and one of the benefits of including the American Bureau of Shipping and the Coast Guard as two of the project's stake holders. Both of these entities will help to ensure the final design conforms to safety and reliability rules and regulations.
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
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