Toyota delivers fuel cell for electric catamaran

Toyota has equipped the ship ‘Energy Observer’ with a new fuel cell drive. The electric catamaran will start on the next leg of its world tour in mid-February and claims to be “the first energy-autonomous hydrogen boat”.

Besides, Toyota says the modular drive can serve in non-marine applications as well. The Energy Observer is a demonstration object of two Frenchmen who wanted to build an environmentally friendly ship. With a six-year world travel project including 101 stops around the globe, Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse want to promote clean shipping.

The special feature of the Energy Observer is that it can produce its own fill from seawater on the way. The catamaran, which is around 30 metres long, has an electrolyser on board to split the doubly desalinated water into hydrogen and oxygen. The energy for this comes from solar cells and a 100 kWh battery storage. The hydrogen is stored in two tanks with 350 bar each. This enables the Energy Observer to store up to 62 kilograms of hydrogen, enough for several days. The waste heat from the electrolyser is also used to heat the cabin and hot water.

For the next stage of the journey, the Toyota Technical Center Europe has further developed the fuel cell system with the components known from the Mirai and installed them in a compact module suitable for maritime use. It is intended to be more reliable and powerful than the fuel cell installed in 2017 – the Japanese company was already a partner in the project at that time. More so, Toyota says the system was designed as “a modular solution which can also be considered for applications in trucks, buses, marine and stationary use,” according to the accompanying press release.

“After three years and almost 20,000 nautical miles of development time, the Energy Observer’s energy supply and storage system is now extremely reliable,” says Victorien Erussard, founder and captain of the Energy Observer. “We look forward to the next step of the project: providing a reliable and affordable system for our maritime community.”

The Energy Observer was already built in the 1980s as a sailing yacht for ocean racing and had set several records (under a different name) at that time. Since the conversion to an energy self-sufficient ship, Erussard and Delafosse have been trying to improve the boat further – some further developments that had not proved themselves in practice have been removed. Last year, the Energy Observer also moored in Germany; it had visited the city of Hamburg for the port birthday.


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