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Energy Solutions

Berlin builds first push boat with fuel cells

Elektra is to be used within Berlin and on the route to Hamburg. It will be the world’s first emission-free push boat. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall.

31 Aug. 2019
Photo: TU Berlin - EBMS

The construction of the canal push boat is the initiative of the Berliner Hafen- und Lagerhausgesellschaft (BEHALA), which operates Berlin’s inland ports. Christened Elektra , it wants to implement a new ship concept that uses only gaseous hydrogen, fuel cells, and accumulators for propulsion. The two electric propulsion motors will each supply 210 kW of power. The finished vessel will be the world’s first emission-free push boat. The project is led by the Department of Design and Operation of Maritime Systems at the Technical University of Berlin , under Professor Gerd Holbach. Also involved in the project are shipyard Herrmann Barthel in Derben (Saxony-Anhalt), Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems , Wesel-based Anleg GmbH , Schiffselektronik Rostock , Dutch storage specialist EST-Floattech , and Duisburg logistics company Imperial Logistics .

The total project volume amounts to approximately €13 million. Parallel to the construction of the vessel, the necessary infrastructure for the energy supply is to be created along the relevant shipping routes. According to BEHALA, the costs for the Elektra are significantly higher than those for diesel-powered ships. The aim, however, is to achieve economic efficiency with the operating costs. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is backing the project with €8 million. Construction is scheduled to start in October 2019 and be completed by the end of 2020.