Germanischer Lloyd (GL) subsidiary FutureShip has developed a zero-emission propulsion system concept for shipping firm Scandlines, which the company said could be deployed on ferries in the Baltic region within the next five years.

Scandlines will operate the ferries on the 18.5km Vogelfluglinie transport corridor linking Puttsgarden on the island of Fehmarn with Rødbyhavn in Denmark.

The zero-emission propulsion system will use excess electricity from wind turbines in northern Germany and Denmark to produce hydrogen for use in onboard fuel cells to power the electrical pod drives.

Excess electricity is stored in batteries for peak demand, while total energy needs are reduced by the optimised hull lines, propeller shapes and procedures in port.

According to GL, the project helps demonstrate the zero-emissions concept because the ferries have a relatively low energy requirement and require frequent bunkering.

Each double-ended ferry will be capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers, 2,200 lane metres for vehicles and 140m³ hydrogen tanks sufficient for a journey of 48 hours.

The ferries, equipped with 8,300kW fuel cells as well as storage batteries with 2,400KWh capacity, will travel at 17 knots, which can be increased up to 18 knots by drawing additional power from the batteries.

Diesel-powered ferries burn about a tonne of fuel per crossing and emit about three tonnes of CO2, as well as sulfur and nitrogen oxides.

In September 2012, GL announced that it had designed a concept for a liquid hydrogen-powered commercial ship that would be completely free of emissions.