The world’s 2nd largest designer and manufacturer of cruising catamarans will be integrating a hydrogen generator as a step towards carbon neutral boats. The generator is from EODev, the development arm of the Energy Observer zero emission research vessel.
The REXH2 – for Range EXtender and Hydrogen – will debut on the SAMANA 59′ catamaran to power the boat’s ‘hotel load’ – things like the galley, other on-board appliances, lighting and air conditioning. The SAMANA is primarily a sailing catamaran and the auxiliary motors will still be diesel (at least for now) but the hydrogen generator replaces all the fossil fuel and emissions now being used while at anchor.
Solar panels, electric saildrives, hydrogen
In early 2021 Fountaine Pajot unveiled its ‘Odyssea 2024‘ strategic development plan which includes social, financial and environmental goals. CEO Romain Motteau told Shipyard Magazine that “Fountaine Pajot wants to become the leader in sustainable development in our industry, an innovation platform bringing together an ecosystem of independent solutions and companies to build a common vision.”
To that end, their ‘NEW 51’ model catamaran is fitted with flush-deck solar panels capable of producing 2000 Watts of renewable energy and they unveiled an all-electric saildrive with Volvo Penta at the 2019 Cannes Yachting Festival.
Hydrogen is going to be a part of the future energy source mix and what better place to turn for expertise in H2 than the innovators at Energy Observer. The 100′ (30.5m) catamaran propelled by sail/hydrogen/electricity has travelled all through the Mediterranean, up to the Arctic Ocean, across the Atlantic Ocean and is now crossing the Pacific … without ever burning a single drop of fossil fuel.
Hydrogen generator uses Toyota fuel cell
Just over a year ago the Energy Observer was outfitted with Toyota hydrogen fuel cells as part of a system that takes in some of the water the boat is traveling through, then uses electricity from the ship’s solar panels to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen.
From there, the hydrogen is compressed and put into storage tanks to supply the fuel cells, which in turn generates the electricity – just as a diesel genset would – to run electric motors or carry the hotel load or top up on-board lithium batteries.
The Energy Observer and Toyota engineers worked together to develop the system and it has proven itself over 10,000+ nautical miles so far: the ongoing voyage from France to the Caribbean, through the Panama canal and on to Japan. She is visiting the west coast of the USA on the way and docked in Long Beach, California on April 26.
This is basically the same system that will be used on the SAMANA 69, except the hydrogen for the Fountain-Pajot boat will be purchased from onshore facilities instead of harvested from the sea.
The Energy Observer dream of circumnavigating the world with zero carbon or particulate emissions of any kind began in 2013, with one of the objectives being to prove that marine transportation without fossil fuel is commercially viable.
The Energy Observer Development offshoot – EODev – was formed in March 2019 to commercialize and share the benefits of the technologies being tested on the research ship and get them out to boat manufacturers and others for use in real life applications and conditions.
From research to real life
By the summer of 2020 the company had the first REXH2 pre-production units ready, then entered a strategic partnership with Monnoyeur Group – one of the world’s leaders in industrial and construction machinery – who brought in subsidiary Eneria to handle European distribution and maintenance. About the same time EODev acquired a stake in energy software, battery and smart home specialist Eve, and in the spring of 2021 Toyota Motor Europe took a stake in EODev.
The REXH2 going on the SAMANA 59′ can generate 70kW of electricity from its fuel cell and has a 7.5kg tank of compressed hydrogen, a 44kWh LiFePO (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery, a cooling system, distribution board and hydrogen supply line. The unit is one cubic meter in volume (35 cu.ft) and weighs 400 kilograms (880 lbs). Additional hydrogen tanks can be added to extend the energy storage capacity.
The average boat doesn’t have the same team of technical expertise available as a research vessel like Energy Observer (!), so one of the most important elements in getting the REXH2 to market was creating a ‘plug and play’ ability with an automated Power Management System that monitors operations and collects data from all components.
There is a ton of debate going on all over the world when it comes to fossil-fuel-free boats and ships, comparing the various benefits and drawbacks of battery power versus hydrogen power. The general agreement is that batteries are not ready yet – are basically just too heavy – for larger boats travelling long distances and so hybrid systems combining batteries and diesel generators in some mix are the current solution.
While the REXH2 on the SAMANA 59 is dedicated to hotel load, the hydrogen generator is module, so a number of them can be ‘stacked’ to generate as much as 1 megaWatt (a thousand kiloWatts) to run electric motors on their own or help out as the RE name suggests – a range extender – for battery-electric or diesel-electric systems. That kind of output and storage can also be applied to electric boats that require high speeds.
For the immediate future, the system will be integrated into the SAMANA 59 by EODev partner Alternative Energies in La Rochelle, France, just a stone’s throw from the Fountaine Pajot shipyard. It will be launched at the beginning of 2022 and then the entire system can be tested in real conditions to assess how it reduces emission and improve autonomies. The next step will be the integration of EODev systems in other units, with different sizes and user profiles.
Jérémie Lagarrigue, CEO of EODev, said “It is thanks to collaborations such as the one with Fountaine Pajot that the acceleration of the energy transition in the maritime sector will be achieved more quickly.” F-J’s Romain Motteau added “We are proud and happy to be among the pioneers. This is an illustration of our desire to bring together experts in solutions that benefit everyone, and to give substance to our ambition to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.”