|The Revolution is Here|
A new hydrogen-based propulsion and genset system is poised to transform the marine industry.
By Elizabeth Ginns — January 2003
Let's face it: As hard as engine manufacturers work to produce low-emission engines, present-day internal combustion technology is not exactly eco-friendly. While significant strides continue to be made to clean up marine engines, there's no disputing that they continue to release hydrocarbons into the atmosphere and are associated with fuel spills that pollute the water and harm aquatic life. Little wonder companies are investing huge sums of money to develop cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels, and many of the most promising ones are hydrogen-based.
Hydrogen technology has been around for a while, and there have even been some automotive applications involving fuel cells, but HaveBlue, a developer of clean-energy marine power, recently announced an agreement with Solomon Technologies, pioneers in electric motors with hydroelectric regeneration, to install its ST74 electric propulsion and control system on a demonstration 42-foot Catalina sailboat. Dubbed the X/V-1, it will initially be powered by a bank of conventional batteries, but once the development team determines usage requirements and renewal rates under a range of conditions, they hope to tie the ST74 into a hydrogen-based fuel cell. "By the second quarter of 2003, HaveBlue plans to have the X/V-1 fitted with a self-contained zero- or ultra-low-emission power system that utilizes fresh or saltwater to produce, store, and consume hydrogen as an energy carrier or fuel," says the company. HaveBlue says the X/V-1 can power boats of up to 12 tons, and although there is no word yet as to when larger systems will be available, X/V-1-powered gensets for large powerboats and megayachts are available now.
Here's how the prototype X/V-1 works. Water is drawn from outside the boat and purified by an onboard water-making device. Using renewable or other energy sources, an onboard electrolysis unit produces hydrogen and oxygen from the water. The hydrogen is stored in onboard tanks for use by any suitable powerplant, from fuel cells to internal combustion engines.
Apart from its low impact on the environment, a big advantage of this system for genset applications is that it is virtually maintenance-free. That means an obvious cost savings, although installations will still likely be more expensive initially than those for comparable diesel-powered systems. However, costly maintenance, such as oil changes, winterizing, and fuel filter checks/replacements, will be a thing of the past.
The HaveBlue propulsion system currently being tested with Solomon has no transmissions, valves, gaskets, filters, pumps, oil, pollutants, smell, spills or (best of all) noise. Imagine that.
HaveBlue Phone: (805) 985-2010. www.haveblue.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.