A 100-passenger hydrogen-powered boat in Hamburg, Germany called the Alsterwasser caught fire last year destroying much of the ship but no one was injured. There were no dramatic explosions of hydrogen tanks as one might see in a movie. Nothing happened and the two 50 kW (67 hp) fuel cells powering a 100kW (134 hp) hybrid electric propulsion system were not to blame.
If fact, it was the battery (or human error) that caused the fire. According to Maritime Propulsion, “It was after maintenance work during a test run that one of the batteries overheated and caused the fire which gutted much of the interior of the ship … Cause of the fire is allegedly wrongly connected batteries!”
I’ve talked about hydrogen boats many times in the past before. And so far I am unaware of anyone being hurt because of a problem with the hydrogen or fuel cells onboard. In March 2010, I had talked about a Hydrogen Car Crash in which the vehicle was totaled and yet, no one was injured. The vehicle did not catch fire, nor did it explode.
The critics of hydrogen powered vehicles talk about their fears of another Hindenburg disaster and rattling on like Chicken Little saying cars and other vehicles will be dramatically apocalyptically exploding left and right like something out of a Bruce Willis movie.
The fact is though hydrogen vehicles have extremely high safety standards especially the tanks. Sure, when there are 10’s of millions of hydrogen cars on the road there will be a few bad accidents including fires, just like with any other vehicle. But, because hydrogen tanks are built with much higher safety standards in mind (some even have bullet-proof tanks) than gasoline tanks, there will be fewer fires with hydrogen cars than we presently have with gasoline-powered cars.
The German Alsterwasser hydrogen boat is another example of a non-event involving a fire or a crash where hydrogen was onboard. Look forward to many other non-events in the future.