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Ballard Marine Blog

World’s first liquid-powered hydrogen ship, MF Hydra, is powered by Ballard’s fuel cells

2 minute read
Oct. 9, 2023
Article by Betina Holtze

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The MF Hydra, owned by one of Norway’s leading ferry and express boat operators, Norled AS, is the first commercial passenger and car ferry fueled by liquid hydrogen. Powered by Ballard's  FCwave™ 200kw fuel cell modules - the first to achieve type approval from both DNV and Lloyd’s Register for marine operations - the ferry entered into passenger service earlier this year following final approval from the Norwegian Marine Authority (NMA)

Toward zero-emission ferry operation with Norled AS

Norway’s goal to require all ferries, tourist boats and cruise ships to only operate on zero-emissions in its World Heritage fjords by 2026 is driving a major technology shift in the marine industry.  Norled AS is one of the leading companies paving the way and introducing zero-emission technologies in their fleet that currently counts more than 80 vessels.

With an ambitious target to become a net-zero operator by 2040, Norled AS is currently renewing its fleet and increasing the proportion of low- and zero-emission vessels. In 2015, the company launched its first battery-powered car ferry, MF Ampere. This sparked an electric ferry revolution in Norway and today the country has approximately 70 electric ferries in operation.

With their shorter and consistent routes and smaller ship sizes, ferries can be ideal candidates for battery power. However, with the goal to transform its entire fleet, coupled with the current limitations in power density as well as the charging time for batteries, Norled has continued to explore complementary options for zero-emission technologies.

Launching an industry-first with hydrogen and fuel cells

In 2018, Norled AS won a tender released by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration for a zero-emission passenger and car ferry – specifically requiring that the vessel run on hydrogen and fuel cells. Norled, partnering with Ballard as a fuel cell supplier, SEAM as the integrator, LMG Marin as ship designer, Westcon yards as ship builder and Linde as hydrogen system supplier, embarked on the ground-breaking project with the goal of launching an industry-first commercial solution - although regulations from marine classification societies were not yet in place.

Working closely with the Norwegian Maritime Authority and DNV, Norled and the rest of the project partners succeeded in establishing the first hydrogen propulsion regulations for the industry, and in March 2023 MF Hydra embarked on its maiden journey.

The MF Hydra is the first passenger and car ferry in the world to be powered by liquid hydrogen and two Ballard 200kW FCwave™ fuel cell modules that have been designed, manufactured, and tested at Ballard’s Marine Center of Excellence in Hobro, Denmark. The ferry can carry up to 295 passengers, 8 crew members and 80 vehicles, and sails on the triangular route between Hjelmeland-Skipavik-Nesvik in Norway.

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With the world’s first liquid-powered hydrogen ferry now in operation, Norled has taken another substantial leap towards the goal of zero emissions – in regards to ferries as well as the general maritime industry.