The keel-laying ceremony of ZEUS – Zero Emission Ultimate Ship, an experimental fuel cell-powered marine vessel, was held on 23 September at Fincantieri shipyard in Castellammare di Stabia. The vessel, first of its kind in the world, is to be delivered in 2021.
Measuring about 25 meters in length, ZEUS will serve as a floating laboratory to investigate fuel cell behavior in natural settings. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert the chemical energy of hydrogen directly into electricity with no thermal combustion.
ZEUS will be fitted with a hybrid engine (2 diesel generators and 2 electric motors), which will be used as conventional propulsion system. Moreover, it will be equipped with a 130 kW fuel cell system powered by about 50 kg of hydrogen contained in 8 metal hydride cylinders, using technologies already applied on board submarines, and a battery system which can guarantee a zero-emission navigation range of 8 hours at a speed of approximately 7.5 knots.
The propulsion system is designed to power the engines in four different ways:
- Zero Noise, using only lithium batteries, guaranteeing navigation range of 4 hours at a speed of 4 knots;
- Zero Emission, with electric power supplied by the fuel cells;
- Navigation using diesel generator while batteries are being recharged;
- Navigation using diesel generator for transfers and a navigation range of 60 hours at 9 knots.