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Clean energy fix for traffic gridlock


Passenger ferries powered by clean energy could alleviate the crippling traffic pressures being heaped on America’s coastal cities, according to a new study.

The San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric Vessel with Zero Emissions study – known as SF-BREEZE – is an ongoing project by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories. Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration’s Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance program, its initial findings show that liquid hydrogen fuel cells tick the boxes on an economic, technical and regulatory front.

“The Maritime Administration sees immense potential in the use of hydrogen fuel cells to provide efficient, clean, domestically produced power for the maritime sector. The current effort to improve the economic viability using fuel cells in a commercial vessel will bring this vision one step closer to reality,” said John Quinn, Maritime Administration associate administrator for environment and compliance.

A follow-up study will now identify suitable design concepts.

“Sandia hopes to produce a half dozen ferry concepts to demonstrate which are most economical and which will make the most impact on protecting the environment,” said Joe Pratt, mechanical engineer and project lead.

And Sandia recently put pen to paper on an R&D deal with a San Francisco Bay operator, the Red and White Fleet, with the aim to advance the SF-BREEZE project by designing, building and operating a ‘high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station’.

Tom Escher, president of the Red and White Fleet, said: “The maritime industry needs to move to zero emissions for the sake of our globally shared environment. This study is tremendously helpful by pointing out how to do that in the smartest way possible, and we look forward to using the results to build the first zero emission hydrogen passenger vessel in the US.”

Maritime Administrator, Paul Jaenichen added: “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.”

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