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World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Push Boat Christened in Berlin

Posted on June 1, 2022

The world’s first hydrogen-powered push boat (towboat), the Elektra, has been christened in Berlin. The creation of this groundbreaking vessel has taken shipbuilder Hermann Barthel and its partners two years.

The vessel is intended to maximize the use of energy carried on board. In addition to propulsion, the hydrogen power system provides heating for the cabins and the wheelhouse. The waste heat from the fuel cells is used through continuous water cooling and the cabins are heated by a heat pump.

With 750 kilos of high-pressure compressed hydrogen on board and a battery capacity of about 2,500 kilowatt hours, the push boat has a range of about 215 nautical miles when pushing its companion barge, the Ursus. Combined with one other charging station, this is enough range to carry Elektra along the region’s waterways to the Ruhr, Hamburg and Stettin.

The Dept. of Maritime Systems Design and Operations at the Technical University of Berlin served as project manager, with support from BEHALA (Berliner Hafen- und Lagerhausgesellschaft), shipyard Hermann Barthel, fuel cell maker Ballard Power Systems and others.

In Berlin’s Westhafen, Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey presided over a naming ceremony for the vessel. “The world’s first zero-emission push boat is the impressive result of the cooperation between stakeholders from the shipbuilding, energy and propulsion technology industries. I’m particularly pleased that a lot of Berlin’s ingenuity flowed into the development and construction of Elektra,” she said.

The first stations for the changeover of the push boat’s hydrogen tanks and electric charging stations will be operational in Berlin’s Westhafen and the port of Lüneburg in 2023. The removable H2 tanks can be exchanged with the onboard crane, and the shore power cables are mechanically handled to save time.

Testing of the Elektra will initially take place in the Berlin area. Beginning in 2023, the tests will be continued on long-distance routes towards Hamburg.


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