Automotive fuel cells for maritime use

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Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to provide emission-free power for marine vessels without the need for backup generators or shore charging facilities and have been deployed in a number of applications since the turn of the century. Now, Japanese firm Yanmar Power Technology Co, has announced it is developing a fuel cell propulsion system for boats, based on Toyota’s automotive technology.

To save on developing a system entirely from scratch, Yanmar will use components sourced and adapted from Toyota’s Mirai FCV, including the fuel cell and associated high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

In the Mirai, the fuel cell, a polymer electrolyte unit with 370 cells and an output of 114kW, is twinned with an NiMh battery and a single electric motor/generator rated at 113kW. Two high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks hold 5kg of hydrogen in total, with a gravimetric density of 5.7 wt% at 700 bar, and an internal volume of 122.4 l. The tanks are constructed from a carbon fiber/nylon 6 mix, with an outer glass fiber reinforced skin and inner polymer lining. The result is a lightweight, yet strong tank that provides high crash safety.

Yanmar’s plan is to create a modular system based on these components that can be easily installed in existing vessels to provide emission-free running. Its aim is to have a fully functioning demonstrator by the end of 2020.

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