The alternatives to gas-powered engines continue to grow.
The surge towards electric power in boating is only increasing, and there have been several notable attempts at converting existing platforms into emission free hydrogen-powered vessels. At present, it appears hydrogen is becoming increasingly viable option for large vessels, with the likes of Lürssen, Feadship, and several other major builders already offering yachts or superyachts with 100% hydrogen power.
For smaller vessels, it seems that hybrid power blending hydrogen and secondary, or even tertiary sources, will be the way forward in the near term. As just one example, the 64-foot AQUON-One catamaran recently became the first vessel to declare an 'unlimited range' thanks to a blend of hydrogen and solar/electric power.
All in all, it appears hydrogen is increasingly applicable to smaller boats, which means it could soon be increasing in large-scale viability.
The Royal Netherlands Watersport Association recently the world's first hydrogen-powered RIB, called the H2C Boat, at the World Sailing Championships in the Netherlands, making the first time a RIB has successfully incorporated hydrogen power into its design.
Despite it being unveiled at a sailing event, the H2C is a 20-foot hydrogen-powered RIB that uses a blend of hydrogen and electric power routed through a custom Torqeedo Deep Blue electric motor.
The boat is being used as a 'coach boat' for the event, but given its size, range, and performance characteristics it could potentially be considered for broader applications -- as a yacht tender, commercial dayboat, tour/guide boat, transport/cargo vessel, or for recreational use.
The boat was developed by Dutch startup H2 Marine Solutions, and is the result of a collaboration between H2, Torqeedo, De Stille Boot, and the Delft University of Technology.
The H2C Boat project and its partners were part of the larger Zephyr project, which has the goal of proving the viability of 'green' hydrogen power for the marine industry.
Torqeedo provided a Deep Blue 50R outboard and Deep Blue 40 kWh lithium-ion battery.
The electric motor setup is partnered with a 51 kWh hydrogen fuel cell as a 'range extender.' giving the H2C Boat a minimum runtime of five hours and a top speed of 28 mph (45 km/h).
Torqeedo CEO Fabian Bez said in a company statement, “Sailing is all about harnessing the power of nature, wind and waves. Now the highest levels of competitive sailing can achieve the range, run time and performance they need in a coach boat, emission-free.”
“Fuel cell technology in the maritime sector is still evolving. As pioneers in electrification, we have designed our electric drive systems to leverage sustainable energy, from solar and wind power to fuel cells powered by hydrogen or other carbon-neutral liquid fuels,” added Bez.
Marcel Schaap, founder and managing director of De Stille Boot, emphasized the broader impact of the H2C Boat project, saying, "The presence of hundreds of coach boats at the World Championships showcases the potential of this project in reducing the carbon footprint of sailing events."