Small Fast Multi-Use Hydrogen Fuel Cell Harbor Craft

Developing a marine hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to power a passenger/patrol vessel.

Zero Emission Industries, Inc.


South San Francisco, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

As of Summer 2023, the project team has made significant progress. The fuel interface box and mobile refueler are in the final stages of being built, and the fuel cell powertrain is getting set up for bench testing before installation in the vessel. The vessel hull is currently being modified to accept installation of the fuel cell system and hydrogen tank. The team continues to engage externally to share project knowledge and milestones with the public.

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 feet 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 gallons/year of avoided diesel consumption and 272 metric tons/year of avoided carbon dioxide emissions.



University of California, Irvine


Ocean5 Inc. dba Ocean5 Naval Architects


Match Partners


Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas)


Zero Emission Industries, Inc.


Ocean5 Inc. dba Ocean5 Naval Architects


Contact the Team