Fuel cell technology Bramble Energy has launched what it claims to be the world’s first hydrogen-electric boat powered by a printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC).
As the lead partner in the HyTime project working alongside custom engine builder Barrus, Bramble Energy has created a demonstration vessel designed to showcase the potential of its PCBFC technology to decarbonize the marine sector quickly and cost-effectively.
The 17.4m narrowboat was launched onto the water in Sheffield, UK, where it completed testing, emissions-free, using a custom marinized fuel cell system. The fuel cell system reportedly has the potential to provide the vessel with approximately 965km of range using the 14kg of hydrogen stored on board, as well as additional power supplied to the 22kWh battery system from solar panels on the boat’s roof.
In 2022, Bramble Energy was awarded government funding of just under £1m (US$1.3) from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), to develop its hydrogen fuel cell technology as a solution to replace diesel engines in boats. The integration and deployment of the technology represent the successful completion of the project.
The vessel has been built from the ground up in Sheffield, where Bramble engineers have created a completely new design of a hydrogen system to meet marine requirements. Each boat using this powertrain technology could potentially save up to 12 tons of CO2 per year.
The global maritime sector contributes 940,000,000 tons of CO2 per year, equating to approximately 2.5% of global greenhouse gases, and the Clean Maritime Plan requires new vessels to be zero-emission capable from 2025. The project’s goal was to demonstrate how the shift to a hydrogen fuel source could help the transition by providing a range extender to pure battery systems and removing the reliance on a charging base.
Tom Mason, co-founder and CEO of Bramble Energy, commented, “While road transportation has arguably had the greatest amount of attention in terms of developing zero-emission solutions, the reality is there is a massive urgency to decarbonize across all transportation sectors – especially marine. CO2 emissions from the marine sector are staggering. It requires a quick, convenient, cost-effective technology that also provides no compromise when it comes to performance.
“In a short amount of time we have designed, developed, built and launched a working demonstration of our PCBFC technology within a marine application. Our solution has the ability to meet a range of power needs and is easily scalable, which is the exact catalyst the industry needs to make a seamless shift to hydrogen to quickly meet emissions regulations and contribute to greener and cleaner waterways.”
With the fuel cell stack on board, the narrowboat has completed a comprehensive testing program on UK inland waterways. Now, at its Hydrogen Innovation Hub in Crawley, the Bramble Energy team will analyze the boat’s data along with vital information about the fuel cell’s performance under real-world conditions. This analysis will support the future development of PCBFC systems for wider maritime applications.
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