Small Fast Multi-Use Hydrogen Fuel Cell Harbor Craft

This project is developing a compact hydrogen fuel cell powertrain for a small multi-use harbor craft application and a mobile refueling system to source hydrogen from existing retail stations to refuel marine vessels.

Preliminary rendering of hydrogen fuel cell-powered harbor craft

Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, Inc.


Alameda, CA

Recipient Location



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

Following approval at the March 2021 business meeting, this project was executed and kicked off in April 2021. The project team is developing initial specifications for the vessel, hydrogen fuel cell power package, and refueling systems by generating comparison charts for different original equipment manufacturer products. The team is also engaging with media and other knowledge transfer pathways to share initial project information.

The Issue

More than one million marine vessels operate in California that continue to rely on combustion engines for power, contributing to carbon and criteria pollutant emissions. Over 98 percent of the vessels operating in California are under 40 ft long and require small and compact powertrains. The light-duty vehicle market has proven the capability of hydrogen to meet the performance of combustion engine vehicles, but the cost of hydrogen production, distribution, and infrastructure remain high due to low fuel demand. Introducing hydrogen as a marine fuel can help reach economies of scale and reduce hydrogen costs, but proven marine-specific hydrogen fuel cell technology solutions are needed.

Project Innovation

This project is developing a marine hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to power a passenger/patrol vessel. The project is optimizing the fuel cell stack operating conditions to achieve desired performance, efficiency, and lifetime through intelligent load sharing, use of energy storage, and balance of plant control. Hull performance is being maintained by optimizing the arrangement and integration of the fuel cell system and onboard hydrogen storage. A portable refueling method is being developed to enable the vessel to be fueled with hydrogen sourced from existing retail stations, avoiding the need for siting shoreside infrastructure. The researchers are demonstrating the completed vessel over a six-month demonstration shared between the Port of San Francisco and Port of Long Beach.

Project Benefits

This project will help displace diesel and gasoline consumption for small vessels with hydrogen, resulting in air pollutant and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Increasing hydrogen demand from small marine vessels will lead to increases in hydrogen production and distribution capacity, reducing the cost of hydrogen across multiple sectors. This project will also advance the state of hydrogen fuel cell technology for harbor craft in support of forthcoming zero-emission requirements under the California Air Resources Board's proposed Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation modifications.

Lower Costs


By using automotive-based fuel cell powertrains, the project aims to reduce vessel capital costs by 50 to 80 percent compared to currently available industrial-style fuel cell powertrains.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

Converting a single commercial vessel of this size to hydrogen fuel cell power will result in around 19,818 gal/yr of avoided diesel consumption and 272 metric tons/yr of avoided CO2 emissions.

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