Bluegame, the Italian shipyard and part of Sanlorenzo group, has unveiled its first BGH-high-speed vessel (HSV), a 10m hydrogen hydro-foiling catamaran.
The vessel was developed as the New York Yacht Club’s challenger in the 37th America’s Cup, American Magic, a support vessel powered by two EODev’s REXH2 units together with three 63kWh batteries. Bluegame revealed the vessel at the Cannes Yachting Festival held on September 12-17 on the French Riviera.
As part of the 37th America’s Cup Protocol for its challengers, under the deed of gift principle that the defender defines the rules of the next AC, Team New Zealand included stringent features for the tenders that are to keep up with the competing AC75s in September 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. The AC defender imposed the supply of at least one flying chase boat powered by 160kW fuel cells running on hydrogen, capable of maintaining 30kts in cruising speed over a minimum 150 nautical miles, while achieving a maximum speed of 50kts for over one hour in total.
These specifications are intended to promote the use of clean, zero-emission speed boats rather than the usual ICE-powered rescue or support ribs when organizing any sailing regatta. The specifications are also to withstand high speeds for quite some time. According to the company, this challenge called for a solution that battery-only powered boats could not achieve, even on foiling catamarans, due to the heavy weight and volume occupied by such batteries. In fact, calculations made it clear that either the boat could not fly, being too heavy, or it could not hold on to its performance requirements as lighter batteries would not provide enough power and discharge too fast.
Hence the need for a combination of solutions, or hybrid system using hydrogen – a principle for maritime applications EODev has been one of the main advocates of since its inception, and even before through the Energy Observer project. The third reason for these specifications is to reduce the boat’s drag, which is directly linked to the shape and total surface of the hull in contact with water This is a concern that catamarans, and multi-hulls in general, address well to combine performance and comfort at sea. The HSV is entirely built in carbon, because the lighter the boat, the lower its energy consumption, the longer its range.
All in all, the specifications defined by the AC Protocol following the Chase Zero program are well in line with EODev’s philosophy for the marine application of its REXH2 hydrogen power generator. The core idea is to use the power of the fuel cell(s) to maintain cruising speed, and the power supply from the batteries, which is limited, to achieve top speed or give extra power when needed. In that respect, it is a hybrid system that powers electric engines through a dual, optimized solution. The electric power management system (EPMS) will handle the power calls. The ideal configuration is to achieve maximum range and balance the use of power from the fuel cell with the energy stored in the batteries, keeping in mind that the fuel cell can also be used to recharge the batteries.
This is why, typically in the case of Bluegame’s HSV, the vessel has been engineered to rely on its 160kW power supplied by two 80kW fuel cells – one on each side of the central cockpit – to handle the required cruising speed. Hence the need for an efficient hull design and overall lightness, as the power needed to achieve one extra knot follows more or less an exponential curve that depends on the weight of the boat and the resistance to forward movement of the hull. Bluegame’s HSV for American Magic thus carries four hydrogen tanks, two on each side, each containing over 8kg of hydrogen compressed at 350 bars for a total fuel capacity of over 33kg.
Overall, converting this amount of hydrogen into energy to provide 160kW of power continuously will give the pilot approximately 3.5 hours of autonomy at full FC power. Cruising at 35kts, this is equivalent to over 120 nautical miles achieved from the fuel cells only. Adding in the 190kWh available from the three batteries – taking into account the limitations of their state of charge (SOC) to avoid full discharge – will provide the pilot an extra hour of navigation at that same cruising speed, thus reaching a total range of over 150 nautical miles.
Luca Santella, head of product strategy at Bluegame, who is also project leader on the HSV, explained, “It has been a daunting challenge, but one definitely worth it. The conception and development of this tiny boat has involved hundreds of people, including all the teams behind each of its components and features. I could not list every piece of engineering and manufacturing that was quite specifically developed or brought together to make it happen, it is endless, but will still mention two main ones as significant milestones: the electric motors created, and crafted by Lucchi – works of art really – and the foils developed by Caponetto. Without of course forgetting EODev for the fuel cell and Philippe Briand’s studio for the hull design or Danfoss and METS Technologies on the software side. The range of experts and expertise taking their share in the project coming to fruition is countless. And everyone can, and must, be proud of the achievement, as, in true Italian spirit and fashion, she is also a beautiful boat!”
Jérémie Lagarrigue, CEO of EODev, said, “Many years ago I was involved in the development of the very first electric motor yacht on foils. A decade later, seeing this amazing machine not only fly but also combine batteries and our REXH2 for clean propulsion technology, with good range, shows how human engineering and creativity can always aim higher for the better, and is a testimony that today’s challenges for a clean future on the seas can be responded to. And as Luca says, to make it even better, she’s really good looking too!”