FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY
Unlike traditional combustion technologies that burn fuel, fuel cells undergo a chemical process to convert hydrogen-rich fuel into electricity. Fuel cells do not need to be periodically recharged like batteries, but instead continue to produce electricity as long as a fuel source is provided. A fuel cell is composed of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte membrane. A fuel cell works by passing hydrogen through the anode of a fuel cell and oxygen through the cathode. At the anode site, the hydrogen molecules are split into electrons and protons. The protons pass through the electrolyte membrane, while the electrons are forced through a circuit, generating an electric current and excess heat. At the cathode, the protons, electrons, and oxygen combine to produce water molecules. Due to their high efficiency, fuel cells are very clean, with their only by-products being electricity, excess heat, and water. In addition, as fuel cells do not have any moving parts, they operate near-silently. Fuel cells are also scalable. This means that individual fuel cells can be compiled on one another to form stacks, in turn, these stacks can be combined into larger systems. Fuel cell systems vary greatly in size and power, from portable systems for smartphone battery recharging, to combustion engine replacements for electric vehicles, to large-scale, multi-megawatt installations providing electricity directly to the utility grid.
FUEL CELLS, PURE ELECTRIC, OR DIESEL
WHY FUEL CELLS FOR MARINE
After years of research at Sandia National Laboratories focused on identifying the optimal use cases for various zero emissions power technologies, one thing became abundantly clear. The single most compelling use case for hydrogen fuel cell technology is within the commercial maritime sector. From the other side of the coin, the best zero emissions technology for commercial maritime operators to maintain operational flexibility, commercial viability and regulatory compliance is hydrogen fuel cell technology. All technology has applications where it is better suited and a set of inherent limitations. While we are passionate champions of hydrogen fuel cell technology, we do not believe it is the right fit for all applications. In such cases, alternatives such as purely electric based systems may be better suited.
Exclusively battery based powertrains are great if you know your exact route time and your vessel will be used for the same purpose throughout its life cycle. Using hydrogen fuel to power your electric drive in conjunction with batteries affords far greater flexibility. With a hydrogen system there's no need to fill out a detailed specification sheet outlining planned route and available electric utility infrastructure.
Specifications for a hydrogen system are as simple as the Power (hp) and fuel amount (gal of diesel). There are no usage or resale restrictions resulting in a higher resale value of your vessel and the ability to change your route as needed.
THE POWER OF HYDROGEN
Hydrogen is the simplest element consisting of only one proton and one electron. It is the most plentiful element in the universe and extremely high in energy. Hydrogen as a fuel source is similar to natural gas but does not contain carbon. Hydrogen Fuel Cells directly convert hydrogen to power with zero emissions. Hydrogen has been around for decades as a commodity with a proven track record for handling and safe usage in countless commercial/industrial applications.