Electric Tow Boats

Electric propulsion systems are available to help towboat owners tackle environmental challenges and reduce fuel consumption while still meeting the basic operational needs.

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ABB to become technology partner for world’s first methanol-hydrogen fuel cell towboat

ABB and partners develop the Hydrogen One, the first hydrogen-powered inland towboat that will be able to travel for about four days at the speed of 6 miles per hour, covering approximately 550 miles before refueling. The vessel's propulsion system will be capable of generating up to 2,700 HP propulsion power, with 1,700 HP generated by fuel cell and the remaining 1,000 provided by the battery by converting methanol to hydrogen directly on board. 

Learn more about ABB's revolutionary technology here

Proven reliability with a long experience of ABB electric propulsion. Now available for Electric Towboats.

Inland Waterways: New solutions for a traditional market

The electric propulsion system is a proven solution for many different vessel types. Now ABB’s electric propulsion systems can help towboat owners to solve the modern problems of a very traditional market. Many owners are facing new market challenges such as new regulations, increased CAPEX costs for new builds, increased demand to improve OPEX costs and increasing requirements for vessel reliability. ABB has taken the time to understand the demands of this unique market and create flexible but reliable solutions. 

New Regulations

New regulations have created a disadvantage to owners looking to build new vessels. The inland river fleet is aging and as old vessels leave the market new vessels must replace them. These new vessels must comply with new costly and complicated engine after-treatment systems. ABB’s electric propulsion systems give owners less costly alternatives to the less attractive standard diesel mechanical systems.  In addition ABB solutions will also significantly reduce the owners operating costs with regard to fuel usage and engine maintenance.

Towboat Operating Profiles Vary

ABB has reviewed over 500 push boat vessel profiles and learned that the true nature of a push boat is not 100% continuous duty. The market requires continues duty equipment due to the harsh environment and daily rigors but the vessel profiles vary greatly depending upon the push boat type, contract, and rivers traveled. ABB can work with owners and designers to now create an ABB ETB (Electric Towboat) design to better meet the needs of this varying operating profile. Today when a vessel propulsion system is designed it is fixed to one point, typically close to the 90% load, but with the ETB the propulsion system can be optimized to fit a wide operating profile. The ABB ETB vessel is optimized when in standby, when moving empty barges, when moving full barge load, up river, down river and even high water. 


The ABB ETB is a towboat with an ABB electric propulsion system. The ABB ETB is the perfect configuration of ABB products and ABB engineering. The ABB ETB is a customized system that includes the generators, propulsion motors, low voltage switchboards and automation. This vessel type allows owners to standardize engines through multiple horsepower vessels and due to the ABB automation vessel owners can plan engine maintenance on their own schedule. The ABB ETB increases vessel reliability due to the multiple prime movers; if an engine fails the vessel can remain in service at a reduced capacity. The ABB ETB can be designed as both a Z-Drive and conventional propeller vessel. As the diesel engine was the next generation of the steam engine, ABB ETB is the next generation of the towboat.

The advantages of the ABB Electric Towboat:

  • All ABB systems are available to support Remote Diagnostic System and Conditional Monitoring
  • High efficiency through a wider design point – significant reduction in fuel costs
  • Increased vessel reliability - redundancies eliminate single point failure removing a vessel from service
  • Lower engine maintenance requirements – reducing maintenance costs
  • Flexible design allows for more efficient vessel designs 
  • Less vibration and no shaft lines to align

Solutions for newbuilding and retrofit

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