Hydrogen ferry to serve Amsterdam commuters

A hydrogen ferry will be the latest addition to Amsterdam's fledgling fuel cell transport network, which so far includes hydrogen-powered buses and boats on a trial basis.

The 100-passenger hydrogen boat will connect the two banks of the river IJ, and should initially serve around 600 employees of Shell Amsterdam by ferrying them to the company’s New Technology Centre across the river from the city centre.

A consortium of international companies is cooperating on developing and building the boat, which could hit the waves later this year, together with a fuelling station which is to go up in North Amsterdam.

The main advantage of hydrogen-powered vehicles is that the direct emissions they produce are zero. The slight hitch is that energy is required to produce the hydrogen in the first place, and this is usually provided by burning natural gas – a low, but certainly not zero-emission source. The creators of Amsterdam’s new H-boat, however, want to use wind power to make hydrogen, making the boat a zero net emission vessel.

“This step is a fine example of the innovative vigour of the Dutch knowledge industry and a

breakthrough in the field of sustainable energy,” said Hauke Sie of the Fuel Cell Boat consortium. “The development and construction of this hydrogen boat is taking place in close consultation with the government bodies, research institutions and companies involved”.

The consortium, consisting of five companies – Alewijnse, Integral, Linde Gas, Marine Service Noord and shipping company Lovers – was aided financially by the Dutch ministry of economics and the City of Amsterdam in developing the H-ferry project.

“The purchase price of the ‘green’ water bus is higher than that of a normal water bus, but the final price will not be double that of an ordinary boat. It is also possible to operate such a boat on competitive terms with a traditional diesel-powered boat,” said Hauke Sie.

A smaller fuel-cell boat was recently developed in Holland by consultants Ecofys (see related story). Amsterdam already has three fuel-cell buses which have been part of a successful trial for three years now.

The city has embraced hydrogen-fuelled vehicles as a potential way of cutting air pollution, and projects like the H-boat form part of the Air Quality Action Plan.

“The exhaust gases from motorised transport are still the biggest cause of air pollution,” says Marijke Vos of the City of Amsterdam council.

“A lot of measures are being introduced that are intended to lead to less and cleaner traffic in the city. Making vehicles cleaner by such means as fitting soot filters to diesel engines is an important measure. In time, a ban on very dirty heavy goods vehicles will also have a great impact. And of course we need more vehicles running on hydrogen!”

Goska Romanowicz

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