Not only a diesel: the first hydrogen yachts


Attempts to invent a new type of fuel have been around for decades. More recently, hybrids and yachts with electric motors were perceived with skepticism, but new environmental standards are forcing developers to increasingly seek alternative fuels. So, is there a future for hydrogen yachts?

At one time, Henry Ford actively promoted the idea that ethanol, which was made from soybeans, corn or even hemp, would become the fuel of the future. This is the type of engine that was used in the Ford T car, which runs on a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. And the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel, in 1900 demonstrated a device that runs on peanut oil. Even then, he actively advocated biofuels.

Energy Observer Pioneer

REXH2 (Range Extender Hydrogen) is a special module based on the latest generation of Toyota fuel cells. It reduces CO2 emissions from boats while also serving as a propulsion system. It was such a device that was first tested at the Energy Observer. Launched a few years ago to sail around the world, the catamaran is considered the first hydrogen-powered catamaran. The vessel is completely autonomous and has renewable energy sources, namely sun and wind. For energy storage, batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are used. Sea water, with which there are no problems overboard, is subjected to electrolysis and hydrogen is ready!

Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic allowed the Energy Observer to pass fire, water, and practically copper pipes! Leaving the port in February this year, the catamaran was stuck at sea for several months. All this time, electricity from a hydrogen plant and renewable solar energy was used on board. And while the floating laboratory Energy Observer has fully confirmed that hydrogen has a future, the whole system is quite complex to implement in a small boat.

Hydrogen – the future of cruisers?

Most of the yachting world was skeptical about hydrogen fuel, apart from Chloe Zayed, founder of Hynova Yachts. This very young shipyard, which is based in the French city of La Ciotat, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is here that the well-known Calanques of Marseille are located – these are limestone rocks, which are also called Provencal fjords. Naturally, for walking in this national park, special eco-requirements were imposed on boats. Very soon, the shipyard will show the public the 12-meter boat Hynova 40. It will be the first production hydrogen boat to be used as a regular cruiser.

The Hynova 40 can accommodate up to 12 guests, and thanks to its hybrid hydrogen-electric technology, emissions and noise are minimized. The boat is equipped with the latest generation Toyota fuel cell that can deliver up to 80 kW, three 44 kW LiFePO batteries, and two BorgWarner electric motors with an output of 184 kW each. In practice, this means a maximum speed of 22 knots and a cruising speed of 12 knots. Using solely the battery, the speed is 8 knots and the cruising range is 69 miles.

Whether hydrogen yachts will take root and whether they have a future – time will tell. One thing is clear, a start has been made and hydrogen yachts are opening a new era of eco-friendly sailing.

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