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Kongsberg launches first full-scale hydrogen-based marine propulsion system; HySeas III

Kongsberg has tested and verified a full-scale, full-size, zero-emissions drivetrain powered by hydrogen fuel cells designed for ships and ferries. The program is the third and final part of the EU-funded project HySeas (HySeas III) which has been running since 2013 to prepare and demonstrate a scalable hydrogen system for ships and ferries. Kongsberg has been the technical lead of the project, which has involved participants from Scotland, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and England.

Such testing (string testing) involves assembling all of the key powertrain components and testing them as a system, usually on the factory floor and prior to the commencement of any ship building. This process is used to mitigate risk by fully validating the vessel’s powertrain prior to committing to full vessel build cost. Both stress and durability testing can be carried out with minimal risk.

The HySeas III string test consists of the following components:

  • Fuel cell system (consisting of 6 100kW Ballard HD-100 fuel cells)
  • Lithium-ion batteries
  • 2 Multidrives
  • Transformers
  • Switchboards
  • Variable load banks to simulate azimuth and bow thrusters
  • Hydrogen storage and piping
  • Cooling system
  • Safety, Alarm and detection systems
  • Battery firefighting systems
  • Energy management and control system
  • Data logging system


The comprehensive testing regime has been designed by Kongsberg Maritime to investigate whether the system would be suitable for handling and responding to demands that normally occur during normal sea-going operations. These operating profiles will include the expected load changes during three modes: transit, harbor, and maneuvering. The extended and exhaustive testing over several months is also intended to test safety, load response, transient response, and emergency situations of the system.

In this final stage, Kongsberg has built a full-scale electric propulsion system based on hydrogen-powered fuel cells at Ågotnes outside Bergen. The system will now undertake a 4-month testing program for validation purposes with the aim of verifying the final design for an H2-powered RoPax ferry.

The testing mirrors the operational loads which would be experienced by a vessel on a route between Kirkwall and Shapinsay in Orkney. It will confirm safe operation and power and fuel capacity requirements, together with other valuable information to feed back to the vessel design team at Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) in Scotland.

CMAL plans to complete the design in March 2022. Hydrogen fuel will be generated through wind power at the ferry port.


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