Toyota Motor Europe is a new shareholder in the start-up Energy Observer Developments (EODev). The French company was founded in 2019 with the aim of driving research and development of the H2 catamaran Energy Observer, for which Toyota is supplying the fuel cell technology.
The Energy Observer is a demonstration project by two French engineers who wanted to build an environmentally friendly vessel. Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse want to present their energy self-sufficient ship and promote clean seafaring with a six-year world voyage project including 101 stops around the globe.
The special feature of the Energy Observer is that it can produce its own fuel from seawater while underway. The approximately 30-metre-long catamaran 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, each with 350 bar. Thus, the Energy Observer can store up to 62 kilogrammes of hydrogen, which is enough for several days. The waste heat from the electrolyser is also used to heat the cabin and hot water.
The world travel project started in 2017, and since 2019 a specially founded start-up called Energy Observer Developments has been taking care of the further development of hydrogen applications on board. Toyota is now taking a stake in the company, but does not give any details about the share and investment amount or other agreements. In a statement, it is only said that with the investment, Toyota is underpinning its business strategy of flexibly adapting fuel cell technology for different applications and further accelerating its dissemination.
Energy Observer Developments and its partners are described by the Japanese car company as the “European market leader for zero-emission energy systems on an industrial scale”. In early 2020, EODev and the Fuel Cell Business Group of Toyota Motor Europe integrated the fuel cell technology from the Toyota Mirai into the Energy Observer. “The R&D team in Europe managed within 7 months the design and component production, followed by the build and installation of the compact fuel cell module. This successfully demonstrates the adaptability of the Toyota fuel cell technology to a variety of applications,” the manufacturer wrote. In the Mirai, but also in various buses and trucks, the drive has already proven its suitability for everyday use for several years. The application in maritime transport is the next step.
Toyota has been supporting Energy Observer as a technology partner since 2017. “We are extremely happy to support and be more closely involved in the initiatives by EODev,” said Matt Harrison, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe. “This will enable the industrialization of hydrogen solutions developed by both companies’ engineers using the Toyota fuel cell technology.”
Jérémie Lagarrigue, Managing Director of Energy Observer Developments, describes Toyota’s investment as an important step in the further development of EODev. “Our relationship began by developing the GEH2 and REXH2 together and validating it with the Energy Observer boat. Toyota’s capital investment makes our partnership even closer. This is a real recognition of the work carried out by our respective teams and a strategic acceleration for EODev.”
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke, France.