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The consumption of renewable sources of energy remains at the forefront of sustainable yachting as it offers a viable solution for reducing the overall carbon footprint. Recently, hydrogen yachts have emerged as a clean, green, and efficient medium for pursuing seafaring adventures.

Here is everything to know about hydrogen yachts:

The Pioneers of Hydrogen

Around the same time in the 18th century, British scientist Henry Cavendish and French chemist Antoine Lavoisier first identified the unique element, i.e., hydrogen. Taking a few steps further, in 1839, a Welsh scientist named Sir William Grove discovered the first fuel cell which could combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity with water as the only byproduct – this came to be known as Grove’s Gas Battery.

Hydrogen has also been in use since the 1950s by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for space exploration. The ability of hydrogen to power fuel cells without generating air pollutants (that create smog) has remained the main driver of interest in hydrogen as a fuel alternative over the years.

With the launch of the world’s first hydrogen yacht in 2018, sustainable yachting enthusiasts showcased great interest in the concept. This was largely due to hydrogen yachts significant advantages over traditional yachts, i.e., more cost-effective operations and greater environmental friendliness. In all practicality, a fuel cell proved to be two to three times more efficient in comparison to a gasoline powered internal combustion engine.

The Benefits of Hydrogen

Sourcing clean energy onboard Sunreef Yachts.

1. Economically Viable

One of the most obvious benefits of opting for a hydrogen yacht is that hydrogen fuel is far cheaper than petrol or diesel because hydrogen is the most abundant element in the world. It is said to continue at this rate in the future as production increases with technological advancements.

It is also noteworthy that a hydrogen yacht is more affordable than a traditional yacht, making it ideal for eco-conscious yachters who hope to make the most of long-distance voyages without breaking the bank.

2. Environmentally Friendly

Best believe hydrogen yacht sailors are also spared of pollution taxation and related fees since hydrogen fuel cells emit little to no greenhouse gases with their limited usage of gasoline.

Hydrogen yachts being quieter are an added benefit for peaceful cruising without disturbing the wildlife; this is mainly a result of possessing fewer moving parts. Moreover, hydrogen yachts offer greater convenience as they can be operated for longer durations of time without the need for stopping to refuel or recharge.

3. Advanced Power Generation Compatibility

Contrary to belief, hydrogen yachts do not compromise speed and efficiency. Another crucial benefit of utilizing hydrogen is that it perfectly complements all other renewable sources of energy, be it wind power or solar energy. Further, hydrogen can be produced from water using renewable energy sources when production is high but may also be stored to generate electricity when demand is high, and resources are limited.

But How Do Fuel Cells Work?

Hydrogen yachts are powered by electrochemical cells, also known as fuel cells, which utilize the chemical energy trapped in fuels to produce electricity. In case of hydrogen, the conversion occurs as an effect of the combining of hydrogen with oxygen atoms which produces electricity, water, and heat.

The proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is known to be well-suited for powering hydrogen yachts as they are lightweight and require little maintenance. In terms of operations, fuel cells function similarly to batteries except they produce energy instead of storing energy. A typical fuel cell stack can provide electricity continuously for as long as the fuel is supplied.

Another crucial component of a hydrogen yacht is an electrolyzer that uses nuclear or renewable electricity to split hydrogen and water. The electrolyzer may be powered by a diesel generator or solar panels allowing it to stay operation even when the yacht is not in use.

The Preferred Course of Action

Each fuel cell consists of two electrodes (the positive cathode and the negative anode) sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen is fed to the cathode, whereas the hydrogen to the anode. A catalyst at the anode separates the hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons, enabling each to take a different path towards the cathode.

Explaining how a hydrogen fuel cell works.

For starters, the electrons migrate through the external circuit, encouraging a flow of electricity.  On the other hand, protons make their way to the cathode via the electrolyte, where they reunite with oxygen and electrons to produce water and heat.

Key Considerations for Installation

Hydrogen fuel cells have immense potential for efficiently storing energy for later production of electricity. However, it is vital to ensure the correct installation for all components onboard.

  • Firstly, the fuel cell stack needs to be sized properly to ensure it can power the hydrogen yacht. Aside this, it must be properly sealed and insulated to stop the stack from overheating.
  • Secondly, the electrolyzer must be placed in a similar environmental condition with ample supply of hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Lastly, the hydrogen yacht must boast an adequate ventilation and exhaust system because hydrogen is a highly flammable; hence, the system must be cooled properly, and exhaust gases must be vented safely.

The fuel cells, electrolyzers, as well as ventilation and exhaust systems must be kept in top-notch condition. Failure to do so may result in decreased performance, increased emissions, and safety hazards. Regular inspection and servicing can help ensure all elements of the hydrogen yacht operate at peak efficiency, remain sustainable, and reduce the cost of ownership overtime.

Combining Hydrogen and Yachts

Hydrogen fuel cells are clean burning energy sources with a relatively high power-to-weight ratio, making them ideal for use in yachts where weight is a critical factor.

Increase in the usage of hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels can prevent nearly 60 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by the middle of the 21st century, directly addressing critical climate challenges. Moreover, in contrast to combustion engines, fuel cells operate at 60 percent higher efficiencies, enabling the conversion of chemical energy in the fuel to electrical efficiency directly.

Hydrogen Yachts by Sunreef Yachts Eco

The first of its kind, the Sunreef 80 Eco Hydrogen yacht is currently under development at the Gdansk shipyard. Hydrogen, as a fuel, will be stored in carbon tanks in their gaseous state onboard the luxury yacht.

All in all, the hydrogen yacht will feature a high-tech fuel cell worth 75kW, a hydrogeneration system, a custom battery bank of 440kWh, inhouse engineered solar system of 32kWp, and two 120kW electric motors. The electricity produced by the hydrogen fuel cell will be used to power the electric motors onboard to ensure minimum environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

• What yachts are powered by hydrogen?

In response to the growing emphasis on sustainable yachting, Sunreef Yachts Eco is currently developing its first hydrogen-powered sailing catamaran in Gdansk, Poland – this will be called the Sunreef 80 Eco Hydrogen.  

• How much is the hydrogen powered yacht?

The Sunreef 80 Eco Hydrogen is priced at roughly about boasting six carbon tanks that contain 55 kilograms of compressed hydrogen (which sums up to 350bar to power the yacht’s engines as well as the appliances onboard. The hydrogen version of the bestselling sailing catamaran will work in harmony with hydrogeneration, electric motors, lithium batteries, and solar power.

• What is the range of a hydrogen boat?

Under favorable conditions, a fuel cell system is well equipped to provide the hydrogen yacht with approximately 500 miles of range using the hydrogen stored onboard alongside the additional power supply from the solar panels to the battery system.

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Sunreef Venture S.A.

Sunreef Yachts Shipyard

ul. Tarcice 6

80-718 Gdańsk, Poland

+48 58 769 77 77