The Elektra is here, the world’s first push boat with hydrogen and fuel cell technology and electric drive.

Did they also stand here in 1908 and christened the first electric push boat the Elektra? At least they do today. The Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport, Volker Wissing, and Berlin’s Governing Mayor, Franziska Giffey, came to see the ship with the developers Prof. Dr. Holbach and the builder Dr. Corinna Barthel from the shipyard of the same name . Petra Cardinal, the managing director of the Berliner Hafenbetriebe Behala, had invited to the Berlin Westhafen.

Here is the Elektra, after six years of development, bright green like hope for a better future. As the world’s first push boat with a hybrid concept of battery-electric drive in combination with hydrogen and fuel cell technology, it redeems hope.

Federal Minister Volker Wissing emphasizes the importance of Elektra for climate neutrality on the water © Kerstin Zillmer

In the opening speech, Federal Minister Volker Wissing talks about the importance of hydrogen mobility for achieving the federal government’s climate protection goals: “The Elektra is a lighthouse project. She has the future of climate-friendly inland shipping on board.

With a total volume of around 14.6 million euros, the project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) with around 9.1 million euros. “The entire project,” says Wissing, “is a blueprint for climate and environmentally friendly inland shipping – and not only technically, but also in terms of regulation a real pioneering achievement.

Berlin engineering and entrepreneurial spirit

Overall project manager Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerd Holbach to be proud of. He is the spiritual creator of the Elektra project, which started in 2016 and is the result of good cooperation, scientific expertise and great persistence. The applications alone were a marathon through the European administrative mills, and Corona also cost additional time and money .

But now the Elektra is moored here in the harbor, and Gerd Holbach joins the tradition of high Berlin engineering. “The Elektra is much more than just high technology,” he says in his speech. “It is based on the old Berlin engineering and entrepreneurial spirit and combines this with the undisputed necessities for the survival of mankind on our planet.

It is true ! In 1908 there were 120 battery-electric barges in Berlin that were powered by regenerative energy from turbines and barrages in the Spree. And there were more e-charging stations for ships then than there are now, reports Gerd Holbach.

And with the quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – “If you want to build a ship … teach men to long for the wide, endless sea” – he points out that science is always an affair of the heart. Elektra is clearly his.

The ship of superlatives

With a capacity of 2.5 megawatt hours, the Elektra has a battery capacity of 60 mid-range electric cars. Three green hydrogen fuel cells on the deck combine with the oxygen in the surrounding air to generate electricity. They have an output of 100 kW each.

They generate the base load for the 420 kW water-cooled drive motors and the on-board network. With a 2.1 kW photovoltaic system, the sun is also tapped as an energy source, which is shining brightly from the sky today on the day of the christening.

The Elektra is an emission-free powerhouse on the water © TU Berlin

Elektra is a real pioneer, made in Berlin, says Gerd Holbach. More than 3,000 meters of cable over 20 meters of ship length distribute the energy and necessary information in the 130-ton ship. With 750 kilograms of usable gaseous hydrogen on board at a pressure of 500 bar and a battery capacity of around 2,500 kilowatt hours, the ship can push 1,400 tons in a pushed convoy.

It has a range of around 400 kilometers. It will soon be pushing gas turbines from Siemens from Berlin to Hamburg – without any energy consumption!

Technology density that is second to none

There are currently no standards for charging power. That is why there are a large number of AC and DC connections on the Elektra. The hydrogen is stored in swap bodies on board, which can be exchanged using the on-board crane. Both enable the Elektra to be extremely flexible when it comes to the energy supply. This means that it can already be used throughout Europe today. Overall, a technology density was realized on the Elektra that is unparalleled for inland waterway vessels.

“Believe me: It wasn’t easy, but it was doable, even in Germany,” Gerd Holbach calls out across the Westhafen. Hopefully you can hear him from far away. Because the staying power of this man and the support of his idea by the partners have made history in Berlin today. The Elektra shows that after more than 100 years we have arrived at a point where zero-emission shipping finally has a future.

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, christens the ship © Behala

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, clearly had the best task at the event. It was up to her to christen the ship. “I baptize you with the name Elektra, wish the crew always a good trip and always a hand’s breadth of water under the keel!”

For Giffey, the Elektra is an impressive result of the collaboration between all those involved in shipbuilding and energy and propulsion technology, and also a result of Berlin’s inventive spirit. She emphasized that Berlin wants to be a pioneer in order to achieve a long-term climate improvement on our waterways. We take them at their word.

See you soon on board

Long-term testing of the innovative and emission-free push boat can now begin. We will soon board the Elektra together with Prof. Gerd Holbach and report from there.