From 2021, the Aida Nova is to be the first cruise ship to be powered by fuel cells.
From 2021, the Aida Nova is to be the first cruise ship to be powered by fuel cells.
( Bild: Freudenberg Sealing Technologies)

drive technology Cruise ships to operate with fuel cells

Editor: Jochen Schwab

The cruise industry wants to become more sustainable - and is testing fuel cell drives for cruise ships. In two years' time, the first cruise ship with a new propulsion system will set sail.

In the course of the CO2 debates, cruise ships do not have the best reputation. And already in 2012 Nabu calculated that an average cruise ship emits approx. 476,850 kg CO2 per day, which would correspond to over 83,500 cars. Even if time puts the figures in relation five years later, it remains to be said that cruise ships are dirty.

Reducing emissions with fuel cells

Global shipping, represented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has recognized the problem of emissions and has set itself a climate protection target. By the year 2050, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by 50 percent. In addition, emissions of exhaust gases are to be significantly reduced, especially in coastal waters.

For this reason, the "Pa-X-ell2" project aims to design a new generation of fuel cells for use on ocean-going passenger ships. The aim is to make shipping more sustainable and CO2-free. The project is backed by Meyer Werft in Papenburg - according to its own figures the largest shipyard for the construction of cruise ships - and the seal manufacturer Freudenberg Sealing Technologies as a technology partner.

They are also involved in the project:

  • Lürssen Shipyard
  • DNV GL Classification Society
  • German Aerospace Center DLR
  • Aida Cruises (represented by Carnival Maritime)
  • cornering
  • epea

Fuel cells in cruise ships

The fuel cell is to generate energy onboard the cruise ship. It operates with low emissions, noise, and vibration and is powered by hydrogen, which is reformed from methanol. Methanol as an energy carrier offers good properties in terms of storage volume.

After a test phase on land, the fuel cell will then be tested in operation for the first time onboard a ship, the Aida Nova, in 2021. The fuel cells are designed to last much longer than the cells used in passenger cars. Initial tests indicate a possible service life of more than 35,000 operating hours - what is actually possible remains to be seen.

Das Projekt wird öffentlich im Rahmen des „Nationalen Innovationsprogramm Wasserstoff- und Brennstoffzellentechnologie“ (NIP) durch das Bundesministerium für Verkehr gefördert.

Flixbus with fuel cells

Freudenberg is thus focusing on fuel cells and batteries as the drive systems of the future - especially in the heavy-duty sector, i.e. for buses, trains, trucks, and ships. The company supplies complete electrical energy systems, including components, modules and subsystems, and also offers hybrid drive systems that combine batteries and fuel cells. Just recently, Freudenberg started a cooperation with the long-distance bus company Flixbus to test fuel cell drives in buses.

This article was first published in German by Konstruktionspraxis.