‘Sea Change,’ world’s first commercial hydrogen-powered ferry, arrives in San Francisco

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Sea Change, a new zero-emission vessel slated to be the world’s first commercial ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology, recently arrived in San Francisco and will begin taking passengers in late spring, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 75-passenger catamaran is part of San Francisco Bay Ferry’s broader plans to phase out its diesel ferries by 2025.

Sea Change can run 16 hours on a full tank, similar to diesel ferries that currently make up San Francisco Bay Ferry’s fleet. Except the hydrogen-powered ferry’s only emissions are water vapor, the Chronicle reports. Sea Change also requires less maintenance than diesel-powered ferries. Unlike all-electric options, hydrogen fuel cell technology has the energy density required to efficiently operate heavy-duty vehicles that transport goods and people – like buses, trains, big rigs and marine vessels.

Hydrogen “is the best path to energy security and decarbonization of the maritime industry,” according to Joseph Pratt, CEO of Zero Emission Industries (ZEI), a startup company that provided the technology that is powering Sea Change. 

With that goal in mind, Chevron New Energies and Crowley, a U.S.-based shipping and logistics company, recently invested in ZEI to help grow the zero-emission marine hydrogen market in the Bay Area and beyond. Chevron New Energies launched in 2021 to focus on establishing lower carbon businesses in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, renewable fuels and products, offsets, and other emerging areas.

“Chevron believes in the value of partnering to develop hydrogen solutions that have the potential to scale and support a lower carbon world, and this is a step in that direction,” Austin Knight, vice president of hydrogen for Chevron New Energies, said last fall.