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Austrian collaboration unveils hydrogen fuel cell boat

The Austrian companies Fronius International, Bitter GmbH and boatbuilder Frauscher recently unveiled their first electric boat powered by hydrogen fuel cells, at Schloss Orth on Lake Traunsee. The boat is the realization of the partners’ Future Project Hydrogen, which aims to develop an emissions-free, fuel cell propulsion system for motorboats using hydrogen as the energy carrier.

With a range of 80 km (50 miles) on a full hydrogen tank running at 4 kW power output, the boat has twice the range of a conventional battery-powered boat. The ‘green’ hydrogen is extracted from water using a photovoltaic system and electrolyzer.

The main economic advantage compared with a conventional electric boat is that no time has to be spent charging the batteries. For conventional electric boats, 6–8 h of charging gives just 4–6 h of actual use. It takes just five minutes to change the fuel cartridge for the hydrogen-powered electric boat, which has been awarded a safety certificate by the TÜV certification agency.

The 4 kW Fronius Energy Cell is a total regenerative energy supply system, says the company. A photovoltaic system supplies the power used to operate an electrolyzer, which separates water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored, and then converted into energy by the fuel cell. An ingenious energy management system provides the highest efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

The fueling system for the boat was developed by engineers at Bitter GmbH. It consists of a cartridge that can be charged with up to 0.7 kg of hydrogen. The company has developed a high-pressure hydrogen cartridge system, with planned distributor stations providing users with hydrogen easily and at the point-of-use. The user can easily exchange an empty cartridge for a full one at the distributor station, with fully automated payment for the service.

Refueling is done using a standard 350 bar (5000 psi) filler coupling, with the simple exchange of an empty cartridge for a full one. The heart of the system is the replaceable cartridge, consisting of a compound tank with downline pressure reduction.

The Future Project Hydrogen was initiated at the Fronius plant in Sattledt, a manufacturing facility almost solely utilizing renewable energy, in the form of PV and biomass. The collaboration to realize fuel cell propulsion for boats, leading to hydrogen-powered electric boats ready for serial production, was initiated with the creation of the Energy Technology Program by the state of Upper Austria.

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