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Duffy Fuel Cell Boat Page 2

Duffy Fuel Cell Boat By Capt. Bill Pike — January 2004

Believe It or Not!
Part 2: Sound levels were generally lower than the hybrid’s, and operating efficiencies were higher.
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As soon as Cowgill had finished with his exegesis, Millennium’s Strizki embarked upon another, starting with the aspect of hydrogen fuel-cell technology that’s drawn the most criticism over the years: hydrogen itself. An invisible, explosive gas, it continues to evoke hard, practical questions, not the least of them being how to compress and safely stow it, whether in a car or onboard a boat. Moreover, while systems that reform or extract hydrogen from gasoline or methanol—whether onboard or ashore—may reduce emissions and fossil-fuel dependence to some extent, they eliminate neither.

“But this device,” Strizki told me, pointing first toward an enigmatic apparatus atop the fuel-cell stack and then toward a plastic fuel tank filled with a clear, watery liquid, “is altogether different. Instead of reformed hydrogen, or compressed or cooled-liquid hydrogen in tanks, it creates hydrogen on an as-needed basis using a simple mixture of salt and water.”

“Salt and water?” I responded in disbelief.

Strizki hastened to explain that the salt the Millennium Hydrogen-on-Demand system uses is not the common table variety but sodium borohydride, a white powder manufactured from the common soap product borax (see “Salt?,” this story). When combined with water in the presence of a proprietary catalyst, it generates hydrogen on demand, together with some heat and a recyclable borate residue.

Salt and water, eh? Can you blame me for being just a tad enthusiastic about cranking up the Herreshoff’s hydrogen fuel cell powerplant? I virtually leapt onboard. Then came Cowgill, Strizki, and Duffield, who got behind the wheel and gave the helm-mounted touchpad a couple of taps. In seconds we were maneuvering away from the dock, although the process was not overtly dramatic. The powerplant emitted nothing more than a faint, refrigerator-like hum and a trickle of cooling water. “Darn near silent,” I commented in amazement.

We sea-trialed our Herreshoff for the next three hours. With an 8.6-mph top end, our test vessel ran just shy of the 9-mph top speed I’d recorded for the hybrid. Handling felt exactly the same, and so did throttle response. Sound levels were generally lower than the hybrid’s, and operating efficiencies were higher. Range at half-throttle (about 5 mph), for example, was approximately 218 miles, while range at roughly the same speed for the hybrid was only about 95 miles. And what’s more, there was no smell and no smoke!

“Cool?” inquired Duffield with an adventurous glint in his eye. The guy sees zero-emissions fuel-cell technology carving a serious niche in the marine marketplace over the next decade, first for gensets, then for high-horsepower, passenger-ferry-type applications, then finally for recreational cruisers. And he sees his little company surfing the big, fat, fun wave.

“Cool,” I replied, darn near totally convinced that Duffield’s darn near totally right.

Anuvu Fuel Cell Products Phone: (916) 921-7040.

Duffy Boats Phone: (800) 645-1044.

Millennium Cell Phone: (732) 542-4000.

Next page > SALT? > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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