Duffy-Herreshoff 30 — By Capt. Bill Pike — July 2002
|Passagemaker of the Future?|
Spend some time hanging around Duffy Electric Boats, and you'll pick up on the excitement, the ambiance of anticipation. Several months ago the little California company sponsored sea trials of a virtually silent, zero-emission, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered 18-foot water taxi at its docks in Newport Beach, and all sorts of movers and shakers were on hand to take rides. They included Dr. Alan Lloyd, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, which helped fund the event, and reps from Quantum Technologies and DCH Technology, big, federal-government-connected names in the burgeoning hydrogen-fuel-cell biz.
The trials went smoothly, by all reports. And Duffy's head honchos soon began feeling way more convinced than ever that hydrogen fuel cells are the newest new thing in marine propulsion. At present the company manufactures about 500 electric and diesel-electric boats annually. By next year at this time, it's hoping to offer a few fuel-cell-powered versions of the Duffy-Herreshoff 30 as well, perhaps in addition to a patrol boat utilizing diesel, electric, and hydrogen-fuel-cell technologies (shown here), for use by police and other government agencies. "The fuel cell will cleanly and efficiently power the boat at 4- or 5-knot patrol speeds," claims Duffy CFO Chris Swanson, "and the diesel will kick in for high-speed pursuit."
Just in case you think fuel-cell marine propulsion is little more than a wacky California fad, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Maritime Administration, along with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Maritime Academy, and several shipping outfits, are taking it seriously. Mucho grant money is available, and Duffy's hoping to get some.
"We're looking at partnering fifty-fifty with Duffy in the recreational boat realm," says Chris Bordeaux, Hydrogen Program head for the DOE in Washington. "Fuel-cell technology makes a lot of sense for boats, ships, and anything else that travels on the water."
At present Duffy expects to install a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell in its first hydrogen-powered vessels, although the method of hydrogen fuel delivery is still up for grabs. Interesting enough, however, Duffy has apparently already entered into a partnership with California-based Quantum Technologies, well known for manufacturing safe, lightweight, gaseous-containment tanks--or at least that's the word on the street. We'll keep you informed. --B.P.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.