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As the simplest and most abundant element known to us, the element hydrogen is considered the basic building block of the universe. On Earth, hydrogen is most commonly found in combination with oxygen in the form of water, covering 71% of the earth's surface and an essential element for all forms of life on earth.

Versatile and environmentally friendly when produced from renewable energy, hydrogen produces no emissions, and is proving to be a key element in our global efforts to decarbonize electricity, heating, transport and industrial processes. Hydrogen can be safely stored or transported. It can be blended or used to create hydrocarbon fuels. With continued innovation over decades, hydrogen has become an important part of the world’s current alternative power landscape. Cummins uses fuel cell and hydrogen technologies to power a variety of applications, including transit buses, semi-trucks, delivery trucks and passenger trains to name a few. But what are hydrogen fuel cells and how do they work?

"The maritime industry is a vital source of economic activity, moving people and goods around the world. Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to significantly reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases while helping to power a global supply chain."

"Ports have the advantage of being closed systems, which allows them to be easily adapted to low-carbon solutions. From drayage trucks to stationary power installations, there are numerous opportunities to decarbonize port operations with Cummins proven technologies."

Hydrogen fuel cells start in space: Decades ago, hydrogen was used as a fuel in the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space program, so it is not surprising that, today, hydrogen is used to provide power for systems as large as power supply stations and as small as laptop computers (yes, really!). However, the latest hydrogen technologies also enable the supply of sufficient energy for demanding applications like passenger trains and utility power stations, which demonstrate the many possibilities of using hydrogen as a fuel.

Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a viable alternative technology for automotive, heavy mobility and energy supply industries, complementing battery electric solutions. With water as the only by-product, fuel cells work as an environmentally-friendly power solution.

A transport ferry that only emits water across waterways?

This will now be possible thanks to Cummins hydrogen fuel cells that are being integrated into North America’s first commercial hydrogen fuel cell powered, zero emissions ferry (ZEF). Quiet and emissions free, the vessel, named “Sea Change,” marks another crucial milestone in the commercialization of zero emissions marine vessel power.

The 70-foot, 75 passenger high-speed ZEF will be the flagship for a planned future fuel-cell powered fleet, transporting commuters around the bay of San Francisco, California (U.S.). It will also demonstrate and test the potential of commercialization of fuel-cell powered marine vessels to the global maritime industry.

How It Works: With a powertrain designed by Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, the Sea Change is powered by Cummins’ 360kW fuel cell and can reach speeds up to 22 knots. The fuel cells are supplied with hydrogen from storage tanks creating electricity to run the electric motors and turn the vessels propellers, generating the ferry’s movement. With the ZEF only producing water and electricity as a by-product, it’s 100% emissions free. Fuel cells are an attractive solution for decarbonization of marine vessels for several reasons. They are zero emissions, silent and scalable. Plus, they are flexible because the power from the fuel cells is transported through wires, the fuel cells can be placed almost anywhere on the vessel. In the case of the Sea Change, the fuel cells are placed in a room at the back of the main cabin, while the hydrogen storage tanks are up at the top deck. The Sea Change is owned by SWITCH Maritime, a North American impact investment company working to create America’s first fleet of zero emission marine vessels. This project is also partially funded by a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board, administered by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, that comes from the California Climate Investments initiative.

Power at the Port: With governments around the world developing ambitious goals for carbon emissions and a focus on the commercial maritime industry, this is an exciting step towards reducing carbon emissions and meeting the need for cleaner mobility solutions globally. Cummins is not stopping with zero emission ferries. The company’s alternative power solutions are set to power applications across the port ecosystem. This includes battery electric terminal tractors and six Class 8 fuel-cell powered drayage trucks that will transport goods from ships to warehouses in Southern California. In addition, Cummins is designing and building containerized hydrogen fuel cell generator systems that will supply both stationary and portable port power.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 litres, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

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