Yanmar Power Technology Co. has announced the development of a hydrogen-fueled 4-stroke high-speed engine for coastal vessels in Japan. The concept engine is part of the Nippon Foundation’s zero emission ship demonstration experiment.
The company first announced plans to develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for boats in 2020. They also announced in November 2023 they had delivered a hydrogen fuel cell for a Japanese passenger ship currently under construction.
The potential for hydrogen propulsion could have major effects on the marine sector with Yanmar engines currently being supplied to brands like Nautique, Beneteau, Bertram, Hanse, Jeanneau, Leopard Catamarans, Riva, XO Boats, and others. While the announcement pertains to large commercial vessels, the potential to apply the platform to recreational boats and yachts is evident given their existing partnerships.
It's also worth noting that Yanmar also provides engines for a variety of industries and brands, most notably John Deere and Kubota, among others, which have a significant footprint in the North American market.
The development of hydrogen power for marine applications is gaining traction. By using hydrogen as the fuel source, the engines produce no CO2 or greenhouse gases during combustion. The only emission is water or water vapour.
In a company statement, Yanmar said they will be working in parallel between hydrogen engine development and a hydrogen-compatible hybrid electric propulsion vessel. The aim is to combine hydrogen engine generators with matching batteries. The new vessel design uses what Yanmar calls "a container unit-type hydrogen power generation system" on its upper deck. The Uyeno TransTech Company Ltd. will be responsible for the vessel's development and construction.
The development of the hydrogen engine is being done as part of a consortium with six other contributors. The group comprises Yanmar Power Technology Co., Uyeno TransTech, Kyoto University, Fukuoka Shipbuilding, Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding, and Mirai Shipbuilding.
To support Yanmar's transition to zero emissions in its maritime division, the company says it aims to "develop a pilot ignition engine that utilizes a small amount of pilot biofuel and hydrogen co-combustion, as well as a spark ignition hydrogen-only engine."
According to the press release, the timeline includes onshore verification tests in 2024 using a 6-cylinder hydrogen engine with pilot ignition, with the goal of conducting on-water verification operations by 2026. The objective is to push Yanmar's marine division to achieve net zero emissions in their coastal vessels by 2030 using "hydrogen energy-based propulsion systems."
The company is also part of the larger "Zero-Emission Ship Project," led by the Nippon Foundation, which is leading the development of hydrogen-fueled ships to achieve carbon neutrality in the coastal shipping sector by 2050.