Marine

Yanmar prototype fuel cell boat gets tested on the water

Yanmar prototype fuel cell boa...
An EX38A pleasure craft was used to prototype the marine fuel cell system, which makes use of modules from Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car
An EX38A pleasure craft was used to prototype the marine fuel cell system, which makes use of modules from Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car
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Encouraged by the on-the-water demonstration of the marine fuel cell system, Yanmar is now looking to scale up to multiple modules in larger vessels
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Encouraged by the on-the-water demonstration of the marine fuel cell system, Yanmar is now looking to scale up to multiple modules in larger vessels
An EX38A pleasure craft was used to prototype the marine fuel cell system, which makes use of modules from Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car
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An EX38A pleasure craft was used to prototype the marine fuel cell system, which makes use of modules from Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car

Last year, Yanmar announced that it was looking at developing a maritime system using hydrogen fuel cells from Toyota's Mirai production line. Now a passenger boat prototype has hit the water off the coast of Kunisaki in the Oita Prefecture in Japan.

The Japanese government recently announced a plan to move towards a carbon neutral economy by 2050, and part of that plan is to develop cleaner power and energy technologies. Indeed, the International Maritime Organization is already looking at ways to get its greenhouse in order and reduce emissions to zero by the turn of the century. One fuel that shows promise is hydrogen, though production will need to shift from mostly dirty to mostly green for maximum benefit.

Japan and Korea are already investing heavily in hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles, and Yanmar is looking to put Toyota's Mirai fuel cell powertrain to use for maritime applications.

The company has installed a fuel cell system comprising modules from the Mirai car in an EX38A pleasure boat, which can carry up to 12 people, weighs in at 7.9 tonnes, is 12.39 m (40.6 ft) long and is 3.4 m (11 ft) at its widest point.

The 6CXBS-GT engine has been swapped for a 250-kW electric powertrain for the prototype, and the Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell is made up of two modules, with eight hydrogen tanks aboard the vessel.

Encouraged by the on-the-water demonstration of the marine fuel cell system, Yanmar is now looking to scale up to multiple modules in larger vessels
Encouraged by the on-the-water demonstration of the marine fuel cell system, Yanmar is now looking to scale up to multiple modules in larger vessels

It's reported to be the first boat to meet hydrogen fuel cell vessel safety guidelines penned by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Oddly, today's announcement didn't include details on how the demonstration actually went, but presumably everything went according to plan as the company is now aiming to scale up the system to include multiple fuel cell units, with deployment in larger vessels planned by 2025.

Source: Yanmar

11 comments
guzmanchinky
I would so love a silent, fast boat.
paul314
Cute. And many, many boats don't do the kinds of trips where range anxiety is an issue. (Now I'm wondering whether it would be simplest to do a system where you swap hydrogen tanks the way people do propane canisters, rather than dealing with direct refueling.)
Douglas Rogers
Nuclear fusion power plants will be built in the island nations. They will extract deuterium and lithium from the sea and export hydrogen and oxygen fuel cells at enormous profit.
Spud Murphy
Sadly, it looks like Japan is still getting caught up in the fuel cell BS. Virtually all hydrogen currently made comes from fossil fuels, current fuel cell vehicles produce more CO2 emissions than a a typical ICE vehicle. Fuel cells, with the current hydrogen sources, do not reduce emissions at all.

Sure, you can use green hydrogen, but a FCV using green hydrogen takes 3 times as much energy as an equivalent battery electric vehicle. Many bigger companies have worked this out now, the latest being truck maker Scania, who is going all in on battery vehicles, not fuel cell.

Fuel cells have so many down sides, they are not able to compete with battery vehicles of any type. And, of course, there is the safety aspect. There are enough boat fires an explosions with just plain old petroleum fuels, imagine what it will be like with something that escapes a easily as hydrogen does, especially when the fuel system isn't maintained properly, which is pretty common on private boats. Hydrogen vehicles are just basically big bombs waiting for the right time to explode.

And then, of course, there is the little problem of sourcing hydrogen. There are so few places to fill up, and the few stations that do exist often don't work well or at all.

Hydrogen is never going to be a solution for smaller, personal craft of any sort, there are just too many problems with it. What boat makers should be doing is developing much more efficient hulls and electric drive systems, most boats require huge amounts of power to push themselves along due to the high frictional losses of standard hulls.
Aermaco
Spud you are clearly spewing absurdly extreme anti hydrogen fuel cell hype non sense,, therefore your snews is very closed off from the reality on the topic.
Spud Murphy
Sorry Propfan, no, I'm not, I'm a tech editor who understands the efficiencies of such systems, been doing this a long time. Fact is, virtually all H2 is fossil derived, electrolysis is still to expensive, and even if it wasn't, the fuel cell cycle is woefully inefficient. Try reading the discussion paper at https://renew.org.au/research/hydrogen-help-or-hype/ as a start, but there's a heap of info out there on this on many other sites, it has been looked at numerous times and the efficiencies and costs of hydrogen just don't add up.

Hydrogen is just a bunch of greenwashing hype that people with limited technical knowledge grab onto as it sounds cool and sexy, but those in the know have always know that it's BS and always will be, you can't beat physics.
Brian M
@Spud Murphy
You are dismissing Hydrogen too quickly - Yes current sources are not particularly green, but green sourced Hydrogen is a matter of scaling up and with new production technologies that greatly improve its efficiency - Just look at some of the new methods that are being devised, a number of which have been reported here. There are also developments in trapping Hydrogen in other materials making it safer to handle. Hydrogen is in away less risky than other gases used on boats for heating/cooking in that its lighter than air so doesn't collect in bilges waiting to go bang! Batteries are also a big risk on boats (with their typical maintenance levels in the leisure sector!)

Speaking as a Hybrid/electric car user, battery technology still is not up to the required level, as a boat owner I really don't like the idea of a battery powered boat 20 miles out at sea, but to be fair don't think I would trust hydrogen either compared to the low tech world of a diesel engine in a gale force 8 scenario.

Maybe some sort of green carbon neutral synth fuel for boats.
FB36
"One fuel that shows promise is hydrogen"

Hydrogen does not create harmful emissions but it is also explosive!
Are we seriously thinking there would be never any leaks/ruptures to trigger massive explosions?

What would be best for making all ships carbon-neutral would be, just start producing biodiesel fuel at large scales from all possible waste/biomass/trash/sewage!
michael_dowling
Ocean going vessels and aircraft have to use fuel cells,but for cars,forget it. New Atlas covered a way to power fuel cells that would be as convenient as diesel/gas: Powerpaste ( https://newatlas.com/energy/powerpaste-hydrogen-fuel-paste/ ),so I could see something like that powering some pleasure craft. Batteries don't have the range you can get from something like H2 powered fuel cells.
Aermaco
@Spud Murphy

You may be a tech writer and have been doing this for years but we have been in the electric transportation business for over 15 years and I can tell you that your focus is way too narrow.

Hydrogen energy density by weight can be up to 87 times greater than the current Tesla battery. While batteries will get better they will never approach hydrogen.
Toyota fuel cells produce 2kw/kg and thus weigh about 45kg. Tesla battery weighs ~ 450kg. Equivalent hydrogen fuel cell+fuel weight + tank weight = < 100kg.
Actual thermal energy efficiency equal relative costs to generate electricity 25-45% depending on source.

Hydrogen electrolysis efficiency (no transport costs) has 75% efficiency + electrical generation efficiency. Energy to compress 15%. energy to liquefy 25%.
Hydrogen generation by other means (must be transported) 75% efficiency total + transportation costs (only infrastructure cost if a pipeline).

Horizontal force needed for Vertical Lift: Car: F=coefficient of rolling resistance x weight. Boat(plaining): F=coefficient of drag x density x velocity squared x surface area. Aircraft: = lift/drag ratio x weight.

In summary, for all forms of transportation, there is a point based on speed and distance where a hydrogen fuel cell is cheaper and also a point where achieving a design goal is impossible with batteries. Unfortunately for battery powered boats they are like airplanes; the vertical lift force quickly dominates the total drag and batteries are only viable for very short distances.