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Rendering of the Sea Change, a ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which is coming soon to the San Francisco Bay. Image: SWITCH Maritime

The country's first vessel powered by hydrogen fuel cells is undergoing trials and could begin passenger service this year in San Francisco Bay.

Why it matters: The 70-foot, 75-passenger ferry represents an important step in the U.S. maritime industry’s effort to transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner methods of propulsion.

Driving the news: The vessel, dubbed Sea Change, was launched last week by All American Marine, a shipyard based in Bellingham, Washington, and SWITCH Maritime, an investment company focused on zero-emissions maritime vessels.

How it works: The Sea Change runs on electricity generated by a 360-kilowatt fuel cell system.

  • Compressed hydrogen gas stored in 10 onboard tanks flows to the fuel cells, where it mixes with air, creating electricity that powers a pair of 402-horsepower electric motors. The only byproduct is water.
  • When the boat is idling or traveling at low speeds, excess electricity is stored in a 100-kilowatt battery until needed.
  • The estimated range is 300 nautical miles.

What to watch: SWITCH still needs U.S. Coast Guard approval to transport the vessel to California, where it will be leased to an existing ferry operator to begin commercial operation.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Chevron vows big increase in low-carbon spending

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Chevron is pledging to invest $10 billion through 2028 in a push to expand renewable fuels and gas, hydrogen and carbon capture.

Driving the news: The oil giant this morning announced specific targets for fuels production and CO2 capture levels by 2030.

California governor declares drought emergency for entire state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speakinng to reporters in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures," per a statement from the governor's office. This past August was the driest and hottest one on record, "and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record," the statement added.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these recommendations with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.