Hydrogen Power for Narrowboats

| Transport

The hydrogen-electric narrowboat is powered by a printed circuit board fuel cell

Fuel cell technology is being used to clean up inland marine technology with hydrogen-electric power using printed circuit board fuel cells.

A narrowboat has been used as the demonstration vessel but the potential for the printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC) technology extends to other vessels in the wider marine industry, according to the technology creators, Bramble Energy.

The 57ft narrowboat was launched onto the water in Sheffield, where it has successfully completed testing, emissions-free, using a custom marinised fuel cell system. The PCBFC has the potential to provide the vessel with approximately 600 miles of range using the 14kg of hydrogen stored on-board, as well as additional power being supplied from solar panels on the boat’s roof to the 22kWh battery system.

The project resulted from funding of around £1 million from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology o replace diesel engines in boats.

The vessel, which has been built from the ground up, is a completely new design and has the potential to save each boat using this powertrain technology up to 12 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The global maritime sector contributes up to 940 million tonnes of CO2 per year, equating to approximately 2.5% of global greenhouse gases. As such, the Clean Maritime Plan requires new vessels to be zero-emission capable from 2025. The project’s goal was to demonstrate how the shift to a hydrogen fuel source could help the transition thanks to providing a range extender to pure battery systems, but also to remove the reliance on a charging base.

With the fuel cell stack successfully integrated into the narrowboat, it has now completed a comprehensive testing programme on UK inland waterways. Now, the Bramble Energy team will analyse the boat’s data along with vital information about the fuel cell’s performance under real-world conditions. This analysis will support the future development of PCBFC systems for wider maritime applications.

Jonathan Newell
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