This rendering depicts the Water-Go-Round, a ferry that will cruise the San Francisco Bay using technology similar to a hybrid car.

Golden Gate Zero Emission Marina

First-Of-Its-Kind Eco Ferry Headed To San Francisco

July 16, 2018 - 12:00 am

By Carrie Hodousek

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS Radio) - The waters of the San Francisco Bay may be getting a little greener. The world's first commercial ferry running on fuel cells, rather than dirty diesel, is expected to begin plying the bay next year. 

Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, of Alameda, has developed a prototype of the clean vessel called the Water-Go-Round.

"It's a Bay Area product. It's going to be the first on in the world right here in the bay, so that's pretty awesome," said CEO Joe Pratt. 

"It's going to look pretty much like any other boat on the bay today," said Pratt. "It's just the power train -- what's inside, moving the boat through the water. It's not diesel engine anymore. It's hydrogen fuel cells."

That's the same technology that's found under the hood of hybrid cars, like a Toyota Prius. 

Most boats burn fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming. 

"The only exhaust is water is what comes out," Pratt said.

The Water-Go-Round ferry's fuel-cell technology will enable it to run two days without filling up the tank.
Golden Gate Zero Emission Marina

The Water-Go-Round will span 70 feet, hit speeds of 25 miles per hour and transport more than 80 passengers.  

"It will be a commuter type of ferry on some days," said Pratt. It will also be available for private rentals. 

Its route will depend on how the craft is used on the bay.

Red White and Fleet, located at Pier 43 1/2 in San Francisco, will operate the ferry while Sandia National Laboratories studies its performance.

Pratt studied how fuel-cell technology would work on boats as an engineer at Sandia.

"We started looking at it as a study and ever since we found that it was possible, we decided we needed to build one to actually prove it," he said.

Pratt hopes the Water-Go-Round can serve as a way to tackle air pollution and global warming emissions. It will store enough hydrogen to run for up to two days between refueling.

"The boat that we're getting here really depends on how it's used," he said. "We'll probably fuel it once every other day."

Much of the funding for the project comes from a $3-million state grant. Other partners have contributed nearly $2 million.

Bay Ship and Yaht Company will construct the boat in Alameda beginning in September. The Water-Go-Round will be on the water in the autumn of 2019.