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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VEZ (VEZ)

Reporting period: 2014-11-01 to 2015-08-31

The public road transport, in recent years, benefited from the innovations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of pollutant emissions associated with their use.
This went through increasingly restrictive regulations to road vehicle emissions, for example from EURO III to EURO V and EURO VI, come into force in 2014.
Although passengers or goods transportation by light or medium weight motor boats (M/bs) is not as widespread as on the road, there is the same attention toward pollutant emissions, but equivalent regulations are missing.
The Venice situation, in which the urban passenger transport is operated by typical water bus M/b, called “vaporetto”, is a worldwide reference. Among the reason of this there are the highly irregular power and high manoeuvrability requirements, so far bringing to install high power engines to cope with peaks but used mostly at very low load with poor efficiency and emission.
A previous zero emission M/b projects in this context (E1, 1988) pioneered the feasibility of electrical propulsion but the batteries available at that time (lead acid) did not allow achieving sufficient endurance for a full day service.
In the past decade a great progress in FC, Hydrogen storage bottles and electric batteries changed the technological scenario to the extent that apparent renewed political interest in zero emission M/bs arose. In past year the petrochemical plants of the nearby Marghera industrial area were producing a high quality by-product Hydrogen, which would be well suited for FCs. Although this production is now greatly reduced, plans for restart the main process are being discusses.
This suggested the idea of the VEZ feasibility study, with the objective to preparing possible opportunities of joining a potentially clean energy source with the demand for clean water transports in the delicate Venice area. The project, however aimed at a broader application context, i.e. in populated areas where similar water transports, sensitivity to environmental pollution and processes optimization and availability of hydrogen coexist.
The feasibility study was performed by IMS relying on the qualified support of the R&D and engineering company S.A.T.E. S.r.l. based in Venice and having been deeply involved in the preceding zero or low emission M/b projects made for Venice public transports.
S.A.T.E made a broad activity, encompassing:
1. State of the art of zero emission passenger boats and Hydrogen availability
2. Rules constraints, related to on-board fuel storage & handling and fuel cells, by search, study and contact with classification societies.
3. Mission requirements and analysis of possible configurations
4. Preliminary VEZ system design, including CAD and 3D CAD drawings
5. Lifecycle cost estimate and comparison with competing solutions, including direct budgetary costing by leading manufacturers of the main items
6. Market and business driving factors, including crossing of hydrogen production with water transport demand
7. Analysis of business prospects
8. Cost estimate of electric VEZ Phase 2 project
For the production costs of the M/b IMS’ directors and available personnel gave their qualified experience and feed-back on the prospected conclusions.
The results of the study are two complete preliminary designs and detailed cost evaluation of the VEZ M/b: one for the intended Hydrogen / Fuel cell power system, the other for a fully electric version, based on batteries, which resulted more competitive and less risky in the near term context, which is very uncertain as regards the value attributed to zero emission and, above all, about the hydrogen infrastructure availability.
The project allowed quantifying the extra cost to be paid both in terms of capital expenditure and operating expenditure for the zero emission goal in people water transports. This quantification was not available or vague prior to the project.
No Hydrogen, No H2/FC VEZ !
1. The Zero Emission feature of VEZ, whether H2/FC or electric can be claimed only if the hydrogen or the electric energy supplied in the two respective cases derives from renewable primary sources or from recovery / by-product of industrial processes.
2. Hydrogen storage and utilization on board a M/b is feasible but implies a large effort to implement safe solutions, probably not completely accounted for in the costs estimates made for the H2/FC VEZ; this means that financial risks shall be accounted for in the eventual implementation of a prototype.
3. Another effort that shall be taken into account consists in convincing end users that, even the safest solutions implemented do not imply hidden costs or risks to them, compared to the traditional or the other zero emission alternative (electric VEZ), often perceived to be safer, even if not completely justified, considering the safety aspects inherent also to DC systems.
4. If hydrogen would not be available as recovery/by-product from industrial processes (i.e. should it be produced by electrolysis or other energy consuming methods, even from renewable sources), the H2/FC would have neither environmental nor economic justification against electrical storage. In this case the electrical VEZ would be the only sustainable solution.
5. Given the above, since extensive infrastructures of hydrogen distribution (upon the above conditions anyway) will be available not earlier than ten-fifteen years, an entrepreneur cannot afford by him/herself the challenge to develop such a product, even relying on partial financial support for the prototype development, test and promotional activity.
6. Instead, providing that the zero emission need / sensitivity is translated into national/local regulations pushing or helping the higher investment and equivalent operating costs of the electric VEZ type M/b, the business perspective on this latter could be sustainable and worth of further investigation and search for joint or partially supported financing.
7. Should then a Phase 2 be conceived, following this feasibility study, the conclusion is that it should focus on the development of an advanced totally electric VEZ solution, to be tailored to the geographical areas identified, where zero emission is given as much value as at least the extra price to purchase the electrical VEZ.
8. Should instead the zero emission be considered, by the market or the policy, not worth enough as to pay for the electric VEZ extra price, low emission/fuel saving engine based propulsion and, where stop/go patterns require very variable power demand, the diesel/battery hybrid system would have a higher potential.