New zero-emissions ferry to start working in San Francisco

A new zero-emission ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology has arrived in San Francisco, where it will undergo sea trials and preparations to carry passengers later this year.

The 70-foot catamaran is believed to be the first commercial seagoing vessel in the United States to be powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells, officials said. The boat is a key part of San Francisco Bay Ferry’s ambitious plan to replace a significant number of its polluting diesel ships with zero-emission watercraft by 2035.

“We know the future of ocean transportation is zero-emissions,” San Francisco Bay Ferry spokesman Thomas Hall said in an interview Monday. “We’re really pushing the limits.”

Known as the Sea Change, the aluminum catamaran can carry up to 75 passengers at a top speed of 15 knots, according to the California Air Resources Board, which has provided a $3 million grant to fund the project. The boat will have enough hydrogen storage capacity for two days of normal operation.

Fuel cells work like batteries, using chemical energy or hydrogen to generate electricity quietly and with minimal moving parts, according to the US Agency for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Hydrogen fuel cells emit only water and address a critical need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment.

Crews will begin training and outfitting Sea Change for passenger service in the coming weeks, Hall said. After being tested and inspected by the US Coast Guard, the ship will begin receiving passengers later this year.

The San Francisco Bay Ferry operates 16 ships to cities such as Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo.

The Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry, which transports tens of thousands of visitors annually from Tiburon to the island’s state park, recently announced that it will be converting to an electric-powered vessel next year.

“We are very excited that Angel Island will be the first of California’s short-haul ferries to be 100% zero emissions,” said Capt. Maggie McDonogh, owner and operator of the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry.

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