On 27 May 2021, the “ELEKTRA”, the first push boat with batteries and fuel cells, was successfully launched at the Hermann Barthel shipyard in Derben, Germany. The launch is an important milestone in this “e4ships” lighthouse project in the German Federal Ministry of Transport’s NIP 2 programme, with support from NOW GmbH, Project Management Jülich (PtJ) and the City of Berlin.

Essential elements have been completed to the point of buoyancy. The ship’s hull is ready, the elevating wheelhouse is in place, the air-conditioning technology with the associated heat pumps has been installed, the fuel cells are on deck, the control room has been set up and the battery room has been fitted with approx. 250 modules weighing over 20 tonnes. Much of this work has been undertaken in confined spaces and sometimes under other particularly demanding conditions. One of the biggest challenges so far has also been the cabling of the electrical components, the energy generators and consumers, and also the monitoring and control technology. From thin data lines to power lines as thick as an arm, almost 2 km of cable were laid throughout the entire ship, which also represents a completely new dimension in contrast to conventional ships.

Work will now proceed on equipping and fitting out the ship. Further construction work is continuing in the wheelhouse, where the helm station is also being installed. In addition, the living quarters are being extended and furnished, while the hydrogen tank system to supply the fuel cells is still to be installed. In June, the commissioning of the individual systems and the entire energy system will begin at the shipyard. The inspections and acceptance tests by specialists, evaluators and the inspection commission of the Waterways and Shipping Administration (Wasserstraßen- und Schifffahrtsverwaltung) will conclude the construction and commissioning process. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the “ELEKTRA” will be ready for transfer to its home port of Berlin Westhafen at the end of August. It is here where the voyages in different pushed convoy configurations will take place, the final ship certificate or the community certificate can be issued, and the trials of the test vessel can commence.

With a total project volume of approx. 13 million euros, the project is being supported by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI – Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur) with funding of approx. 8 million euros and is being supervised and coordinated by the Project Management Jülich (PtJ) and the National Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW GmbH).


ELEKTRA – the world’s first zero-emission push boat: A film about the pilot project of the TU Berlin, Department of Design and Operation of Maritime Systems.


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