Carnival’s AIDA Cruises Pioneering the Industry’s First Fuel-Cell Technology

As early as 2021, Carnival Corporation’s Germany-based brand, AIDA cruises, will become the first in the industry to trial a leading-edge, fuel-cell technology designed to power large-scale cruise ships aboard its newest vessel, the AIDAnova.

The research project, named “Pa-X-ell2”, is being funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and carried out by AIDA Cruises in conjunction with leaders from the maritime and engineering sectors. It was created to develop fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen derived from methanol—a system that would surpass the low-emissions levels of liquified natural gas (LNG), which is currently the world’s cleanest-burning fossil fuel.

Developed to function as a hybrid energy system for use specifically in cruise ships, the fuel cells are expected to supply a longer lifecycle than those currently created for automobiles, with early land-based trials showing a lifespan of over 35,000 operating hours.

Designers anticipate that the fuel cells will also provide benefits beyond the significant lowering of emissions, including operating at lower noise and vibration levels. They also see potential for the required methanol to be produced by renewable resources in the future.

“With the first-time use of fuel cells onboard an oceangoing cruise ship, we will reach another important milestone on our journey to emission-neutral cruising,” said Felix Eichhorn, president of AIDA Cruises. “Our goal is to continue to show concrete solutions for achieving our climate targets.”

AIDA Cruises has set ambitious goals for itself in achieving optimum sustainability, and the fuel-cell pilot program is only the most recent in an ongoing series of technological advancements and environmental initiatives being implemented by the European brand.

Since as far back as 2000, every ship built for AIDA Cruises has been equipped with “cold ironing” capabilities, which allow vessels to connect directly into the land-based electrical grid while docked in port, wherever such infrastructure is available. By the end of 2020, at least twelve of AIDA’s fourteen ships will be able to operate using shore power wherever available.

AIDA made history in December 2018 by launching the world’s first cruise ship capable of being powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG)—the world’s cleanest-burning fossil fuel—both while at sea and in port. Considered a major breakthrough in “green cruising”, the ability to use LNG to power cruise ships almost entirely eliminates sulfur dioxide emissions and particulate matter (between 95- and 100-percent reduction), and substantially reduces nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions.

Through its “Power to Gas” project, AIDA is also exploring the possibility of CO2-free production of liquefied natural gas from renewable sources. The brand is on track to carry 94 percent of its passengers aboard ships capable of running solely off of low-emission LNG or shore power by the close of 2023.

In September 2019, the carrier also committed to a 2020 installation of a first-of-its-kind lithium-ion battery system on board AIDAperla. It will be the world’s largest battery-storage system ever to be used on a passenger vessel, helping to power the ship’s propulsion and operation with an output of ten-megawatt hours.

As part of the company’s “green cruising” strategy, Carnival Corporation, as a whole, currently has a total of ten next-generation, LNG-powered cruise ships on order across its brand portfolio.

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