ZEUS a RINA Classed Ship capable of running on hydrogen

By building the prototype ship known as ZEUS (Zero Emission Ultimate Ship) with hybrid propulsion, the research project TecBIA by Fincantieri, co-financed by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, aims to validate the sustainable technology of fuel cells for naval applications. According to a RINA statement, Zeus was given RINA classification in October 2022 as the first ship that could be propelled by hydrogen.

By lowering emissions of greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter, the project aims to identify low-impact, sustainable solutions for ferries, mega-yachts, cruise ships, and oceanographic research vessels.

The main purpose of ZEUS, which is roughly 25 meters long and weighs around 170 tons, is to serve as a floating laboratory for research into fuel cells, which are electrochemical conversion devices that produce heat and electricity without thermal combustion. A hybrid propulsion system made up of two diesel generators and two electric motors is installed on the ship. A lithium battery system and a 144-kW fuel cell system are also included. These systems are both fueled by around 50 kg of hydrogen that is stored in metal hydride cylinders. Utilizing the fuel cells’ electricity to power the ship in the zero-emission mode for around eight hours, or using batteries to power the ship in the zero-noise mode for about another four hours, will be possible thanks to this setup.

This experiment demonstrates that using hydrogen to generate the necessary propulsion energy without emitting any CO2 is a viable option, particularly for short-sea applications.

Numerous organizations, including Fincantieri, Isotta Fraschini Motori, Cetena, Seastema, the CNR, the Universities of Genoa, Palermo, and Naples, as well as ENR and RINA, participated in the TecBIA project.

The project’s technology can be used for a variety of marine units, from inland water units with relatively low energy needs to big cruise ships that can maintain the electrical demand for the accommodations or the operation of the ship for brief periods at low speed.