World’s First Hydrogen Boat

Bramble Energy have recently achieved what will likely to a history-defining moment in the marine world, with the launch of the world’s first hydrogen-electric boat, powered by a printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC™).

As the lead partner in the HyTime project, Bramble Energy, in collaboration with custom engine builder Barrus, unveiled the prototype vessel to demonstrate the huge potential of PCBFC™ to quickly and cost-effectively decarbonise the marine industry.

The 57ft narrowboat was launched in Sheffield, Yorkshire. It successfully completed testing, emissions-free, using a custom marinised fuel cell system. This fuel cell setup has the potential to provide the boat with a range of approximately 600 miles; coming from its 14kg onboard hydrogen storage, with additional power from solar panels on the boat’s roof feeding into the 22kWh battery system.

Securing close to £1 million in Government funding from BEIS (now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero – DESNZ) in 2022, Bramble Energy got to work on the development of its hydrogen fuel cell technology, which could be a replacement for diesel engines in boats.

Built in Sheffield, Bramble engineers created a brand new hydrogen system tailored to meet marine standards. This technology holds the potential to save up to 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year for each vessel using it.

The maritime industry contributes a staggering 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually, accounting for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gases. To address this, the Clean Maritime Plan mandates new vessels to possess zero-emission capabilities starting in 2025. This project aimed to showcase how the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel source could aid this transition, extending the range of pure battery systems while eliminating dependence on fixed charging infrastructure.

Tom Mason, co-founder and CEO of Bramble Energy said: “While road transportation has arguably had the greatest amount of attention in terms of developing zero-emission solutions, the reality is there is a massive urgency to decarbonise across all transportation sectors – especially marine. CO2 emissions from the marine sector are staggering. It requires a quick, convenient, cost-effective technology that also provides no compromise when it comes to performance.

In a short amount of time, we have designed, developed, built and launched a working demonstration of our PCBFC™ technology within a marine application. Our solution has the ability to meet a range of power needs and is easily scalable, which is the exact catalyst the industry needs to make a seamless shift to hydrogen to quickly meet emissions regulations and contribute to greener and cleaner waterways.”

Hydrogen Boat - Bramble Energy - Bridge Classic Cars
Image: Bramble Energy

16 responses to “World’s First Hydrogen Boat”

  1. MR MARC A T WILSON avatar

    Where do you source the hydrogen?

    1. steve avatar

      electrolysis of sea water gets you o2 + h2 – can generate it yourself.

      1. John Thompson avatar

        Sea water contains calcium and magnesium, which will foul up the plates with carbonates which reduces efficiency until it cannot produce hydrogen. We have a solution. Email john@fluid-conditioning-services.com

      2. Simon avatar

        It would require more power to generate the hydrogen than you would get from reacting it in a fuel cell or burning it. Hydrogen is a convenient source of energy for vehicles, but it would have to be produced in a stationary plant to be efficient. It could be produced using solar power, but that would not be feasible with the size of arrays that are fitted to boats, and in which case you may as well just use the power direct or use it to charge batteries!

  2. Dave Allen avatar
    Dave Allen

    How quickly will the Hydrogen fuel be available and what is the “per mile “ cost of using this fuel?
    What are the costs of this system?
    What will installation and certification cost?
    Will this be certified for full time live aboards?
    How long will this type of system last? Diesel engines last a lifetime.

    1. Andy T avatar
      Andy T

      Dirty hydrogen (created from natural gas) costs between 1.5 to 5 € per kg, clean hydrogen is about € 5 to 8 per kg.

  3. Richard Norman avatar
    Richard Norman

    I’m looking at Hydrogen for a project
    please could you contact me I’m interested in what you have done

  4. Ronaldo avatar

    The Clean Maritime Plan itself does NOT mandate new vessels to possess zero emission capabilities by 2025, and explicitly says so.

    To quote from it, page 6 paragraph 8:

    “These zero emissions shipping targets are intended to provide aspirational goals for the sector, not mandatory targets. They can only be achieved through collaboration between government and industry, promoting the zero emission pathways that maximise the economic opportunities for the UK economy while also minimising costs for UK Shipping ”

    paragraph 10

    “In order to reach this vision [ In 2050, zero emission ships are commonplace globally] by 2025 we expect that :

    i. All vessels operating in UK waters are maximising the use of energy efficient options. All new vessels being ordered for use in UK waters are being designed with zero emission propulsion capability. Zero emission commercial vessels are in operation in UK waters. ”

    Thus the document merely sets out aspirations, not mandatory requirements. Perhaps legislation might get, or might have got, enacted to give effect to the 2025 date, but the Green Marine document is not itself the law, and explicitly states that it does not mandate anything .

  5. Jan Vendelin Hala avatar
    Jan Vendelin Hala


  6. Neil Brown avatar
    Neil Brown

    Will it be Crick boat show this year

  7. Henk Yserman avatar
    Henk Yserman

    Electricity is needed to generate Hydrogen. What is the disadvantage to use the recently developing dry-batteries?

    1. Andy T avatar
      Andy T

      The hydrogen tank can save way more energy than the 22 kWh battery this boat is using.

  8. David Gavin avatar
    David Gavin


    1. Steve Barber avatar
      Steve Barber

      Interesting. It must be remembered that producing hydrogen is a very energy intensive and currently carbon intensive process. Green hydrogen, produced by renewable electricity is better but very wasteful of renewable electricity and there is already a huge demand for hydrogen in the chemical and steel industries.

      Hydrogen storage is not easy and wasteful.

      However, maybe it’s got better energy density than batteries.

      I’d like to see the figures.

  9. Geoff Meadows avatar
    Geoff Meadows

    Good day. I really enjoyed your article and would really appreciate some more information. Kind regards Geoff

  10. Malcolm Bridge avatar
    Malcolm Bridge

    Although it will work this is a nonsense both scientifically and financially in a canal boat. Producing hydrogen by steam reforming natural gas (the current method) uses huge amounts of thermal energy and produces lots of CO2 so is little, if any, better than using a diesel engine. Electrolysis (only ‘green’ if the electricity comes from renewable sources) is about 70% efficient and the fuel cell will be about 50%. Add in an allowance for carriage (a massive Hydrogen tanker carries just 1 tonne of Hydrogen) and you finish up with about 30% of the original electrical energy available to propel your boat. Cost is rather harder to pin down but Hydrogen currently seems to cost £10-15/kg, 2.5-3.5 times that of hydrocarbon fuels on an equivalent energy basis. I have been unable to find a price for electrolytic Hydrogen but you can be quite sure that it will be a lot more expensive. Far better just to pass the electricity through wires and store it in batteries. Where Hydrogen might have an application, mentioned in the article but largely overlooked by the responders, is in ocean-going ships where battery powering isn’t an option.

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