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Hydrogen-powered Passenger Boat to Launch in San Francisco


Sea Change ferry is seen docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. The 75-passenger ferry, propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, was built by All American Marine and conceived of by Switch Maritime. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)
Hydrogen-powered Passenger Boat to Launch in San Francisco
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A new hydrogen-powered passenger boat is preparing to launch in San Francisco, California.

Builders of the 75-passenger boat, or ferry, say it produces no carbon emissions. The ferry, named Sea Change, is set to begin carrying passengers across San Francisco Bay to several stops in the city in June.

The ferry is completely powered by hydrogen fuel cells. In this kind of power system, the fuel cells convert hydrogen gas into electricity.

Sea Change was built at the All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, in Washington state. It has been undergoing tests with the U.S. Coast Guard in nearby Puget Sound.

An interior view of the cabin aboard Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75 passenger ferry, that is propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, while it is docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)
An interior view of the cabin aboard Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75 passenger ferry, that is propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, while it is docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)

The project was financed by Switch Maritime, which owns the Sea Change. The company’s chief executive, Pace Ralli, told Reuters the ferry is the first such vessel in the world to be completely powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Ralli said he got the idea for the ferry while trying to come up with new ways to use less carbon in the maritime industry. He learned of a state-supported project in California that was developing hydrogen fuel cells as a method for “decarbonizing” ships. “So we joined up with them and funded their project in 2019," Ralli said.

The leader of the All American Marine’s project is Jeff Sokolik. He said the hydrogen fuel cells power two propellers that move the ferry at a top speed of about 37 kilometers an hour.

Switch Maritime CEO Pace Ralli sits inside the cabin of the Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75 passenger ferry, that is propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)
Switch Maritime CEO Pace Ralli sits inside the cabin of the Sea Change, a 70-foot, 75 passenger ferry, that is propelled entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)

He told Reuters he thinks the fuel cell power systems could one day become a new "standard” for many kinds of ships. He said, “They're clean, they're efficient and they make sense economically…”

Supporters of hydrogen fuel cells say the technology is cleaner than other carbon-cutting methods because the process only releases water and heat. But the high cost and large fuel cell systems have so far limited use of the technology.

All American Marine project manager Matt Riedel disembarks the Sea Change while it is docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)
All American Marine project manager Matt Riedel disembarks the Sea Change while it is docked at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. (REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight)

"We're focused on the shipping industry because that's where we have expertise, but I don't think any industry can really wait at this point," Ralli said.

He added that he thinks the Sea Change project can lead to more hydrogen fuel cell vessels, including larger ferries, cruise ships and tankers.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source

convert – n. to change the appearance, form or purpose of something

vessel – n. a ship or large boat

maritime – adj. of or relating to the sea

propeller – n. a piece of equipment made of two or more flat metal pieces that turn and cause a ship of aircraft to move

standard – n. a level of quality, especially one that is acceptable

efficient – adj. working well and not wasting time or energy

focus – v. to give special attention to something

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