Tokyo (SCCIJ) – Almatech, a Swiss space and naval company from Lausanne, and e5.lab, Japan’s largest maritime platform, will introduce and commercialize the first hydrogen (and battery) powered passenger shuttle boat to Japan. The venture aims to decarbonize short-distance passenger transport.
The partnership was signed at a videoconference that connected the Swiss embassy in Japan and the Innovation Park of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). For the Japanese side, e5.lab President Tomoaki Ichida participated. Almatech General Manager Hervé Cottard signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the Swiss side.
The Swiss Business Hub Japan, a branch of Switzerland Global Enterprise, supported Almatech during their partner search in Japan and introduced their cutting-edge technology to the Japanese market. The hub also co-hosted the signing ceremony by welcoming e5 Lab at the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan. “Almatech’s story exemplifies the potential of Japan’s hydrogen market,” said Claudio Mazzucchelli, Head of Swiss Business Hub Japan.
No greenhouse gases
Engineers at Almatech spent about three years developing the Zero Emission Speed ShuTtle (ZESST). This hydrogen-fueled shuttle is equipped with high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. To drastically reduce the energy consumption required for travel, the boat flies above water by using specially designed hydrofoils.
As a result, energy consumption per passenger and cruising range is about one-fifth of conventional diesel engine-powered vessels. The hull structure uses new-generation composites made with plant-based fibers. Thus, it realizes a further reduction in the vessel’s environmental impact.
Because ZESST uses no fossil fuels at all, it does not exhaust greenhouse gases, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and fine particular matters, and generates minimal wake and noise. Hence, the land-locked nation Switzerland can help the island nation Japan to adopt the first next-generation Mobility as a Service on water.
The design of the Swiss boat is adaptable to vessels of various sizes between 50 and up to 400 passengers based on a modularized core system. The ocean shipping industry is one of the sectors aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale, and Japan is a major player in this industry.
The Swiss high-tech company Almatech established in 2009 specializes in the development and realization of complex systems related to space technology and naval architecture. One of its main projects is the construction of the entire structure of Switzerland’s first space telescope, CHEOPS, for the European Space Agency. In 2011, Almatech participated in the Hydroptère project, which aimed to develop a new type of high-speed yacht, and set a world water speed record using hydrofoils optimized by Almatech. Its hydrogen technology will also be showcased at the EXPO 2025 in Osaka.
e5.Lab is a joint venture of Asahi Tanker, Exeno, Mitsubishi OK Lines, and Mitsubishi Corp. Launched in 2019, it provides ocean shipping solutions based on electrification, digitalization, and standardization of ocean-going vessels. Its mission is to create sustainable coastal shipping, which is the lifeline of Japan.
Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ, based on material by e5.Lab and Almatech