Feasibility of the Zero-V: A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Research Vessel

  • Client:
    Sandia National Laboratories
  • Collaborators:
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • Project Type:
    Vessel Procurement Consulting
  • Service Categories:
    Naval Architecture
    Marine Engineering
    Marine Consulting
  • Vessel Overview:
    Zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell coastal research vessel
  • Challenge:
    Determine the feasibility of a coastal research vessel powered by hydrogen fuel cells and liquid hydrogen as the only fuel.


Glosten teamed up with Sandia National Laboratories, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and DNV to perform a study evaluating the technical, regulatory, and economic feasibility of a coastal research vessel fueled solely by liquid hydrogen and powered by fuel cells. The study also looked at the environmental benefits of hydrogen power and the logistics of refueling such a vessel at the expected points of call.

Once Scripps established performance objectives for the vessel and determined its ports of call, we developed a concept design, designated the “Zero-V,” that satisfied all our technical and performance goals. A trimaran hull form was selected to maximize needed deck area for storage of the liquid hydrogen, and an integrated fuel-cell electric plant provides both propulsion and ship service electrical power. The vessel is fitted with a retractable azimuthing bow thruster as well as stern thrusters in each outer hull and two fixed-pitch propellers which provide the dynamic positioning capability needed for station keeping in a seaway. We also designed the Zero-V for the comfort of scientists and crew and received feedback from the Scripps science team that the vessel succeeded in that regard.



To confirm regulatory compliance, Glosten submitted a vessel design package to the US Coast Guard and DNV for their evaluation. While additional development would be necessary to gain approval as an alternative design, an initial regulatory framework was established for the eventual deployment of the Zero-V, and DNV provided a conditional approval in principle (CAIP) for the design. The economic feasibility of the Zero-V was analyzed from the vessel capital cost and operations and maintenance (O&M) perspectives and compared to a diesel-powered equivalent, the New Horizon. While the total annual O&M cost for Zero-V is 7.7% higher than the New Horizon, fuel prices fluctuate, and renewable liquid hydrogen is expected to become more cost effective in the coming years. As a result of this study, we deemed it feasible to design, build, and operate a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered coastal research vessel. Such a vessel would offer dramatic environmental benefits, have low airborne and underwater noise signatures, and could be conveniently refueled at a number of ports of call by liquid hydrogen refueling trailers.

  • ZeroV-CutawayFull-Anno2

In The Press.